Researchers Grow Capillaries With a Neural Organoid

Source: University of California Davis

Summary: A team of researchers has succeeded in growing capillaries on and into a neural organoid that will one day lead to therapies for treating brain damage in people.

Organoids are masses of cells that have been grown artificially to represent human organs. They are grown to allow scientists to perform research on reasonable facsimiles of living human organs instead of real ones, for obvious reasons. Medical scientists also hope that someday, such research will lead to the replacement of damaged organs with new ones grown from the patient’s own cells. One area of such research involves growing neural cell organoids, or mini-brains, as some have called them. They are not actually brains, of course, as they cannot think, process information or develop consciousness at least not yet. A team of researchers from the University of California Davis has succeeded in growing capillaries on and into a neural organoid that will one day lead to therapies for treating brain damage in people. The study findings were published in the journal NeuroReport.

Artificially grown cell masses

There is robust penetration of the outer, more organized layers of the organoid in vitro. There is some ingrowth of blood vessels into the STEM121-positive core of the organoid (white arrow). Credit: NeuroReport

The team first removed brain membranes from a live human volunteer during treatment for an unrelated ailment. They then caused the cells in the membrane to become stem cells, which they programmed to mature into neural cells. Meanwhile, the team also collected endothelial cells (cells that line blood vessels) from the same patient. The endothelial cells were placed in a liquid which was used as a bath for the stem cells—the stem cells soaked in the liquid bath for three weeks. At that point, the stem cells were removed and placed into the brain of a healthy live mouse, where they were allowed to mature into a human neural celled organoid. The team reports that two weeks later, they found that capillaries had grown on and into the inner layers of the organoid, possibly paving the way for introduction of blood that would carry nutrients.

More Information: Missy T. Pham et al, “Generation of human vascularized brain organoids”, NeuroReport (2018). DOI: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000001014

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