How close to reality are brain organoids, and which molecular mechanisms underlie the remarkable self-organizing capacities of tissues? Researchers already have succeeded in growing so-called "cerebral organoids" in a dish - clusters of cells that self-organize into small brain-like structures. Dr. Juergen Knoblich and colleagues have now further characterized these organoids and published their results online on March 10, 2017 in The EMBO Journal. The article is titled “Self‐Organized Developmental Patterning and Differentiation in Cerebral Organoids.” The scientists demonstrate that, as in the human brain, so-called forebrain organizing centers orchestrate developmental processes in the organoid, and that organoids recapitulate the timing of neuronal differentiation events found in human brains. The development of the human brain from just a few cells to a thinking organ is one of the great mysteries of biology. In the past decade, Dr. Knoblich and his team at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences have pioneered brain organoid technology to investigate this intriguing process. Understanding normal organoid development is a prerequisite to using this powerful system to explore the possibility of modeling human developmental diseases.
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