Agilent Helps Researchers Create a Human Brain

For the first time, researchers in Massachusetts have been able to grow human brain cells in a laboratory that mimic Alzheimer’s disease.  Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, has been difficult to replicate or study in laboratory animals.  The team used an Agilent QuikChange Mutagenesis Kit in their work, introducing mutations into specific genes to create complementary DNA constructs.

Human brain cells were first grown in a gel, where they soon differentiated and formed neural networks.  They were then fed genes associated with Alzheimer’s.  Within a few weeks, the brain cells exhibited telltale features of Alzheimer’s disease.  The researchers hope this breakthrough will help scientists better understand how the disease progresses.

Last year, researchers in Austria were able to grow the first three-dimensional, living model of a human brain in the laboratory.  The pea-sized “cerebral organoid” was equivalent to that of a nine-week old fetus.  It was incapable of thought or consciousness, but contained several differentiated brain regions including the cerebral cortex, retina and hippocampus.

The scientists used adult human skin cells that were reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells.  Exomes (the part of the genome containing protein-encoding DNA) were captured and amplified using Agilent SureSelect target enrichment tools.  Cells were suspended in a gel scaffold and fed nutrients necessary for brain development.

The cerebral organoid was used to model microcephaly, a genetic disorder in which the head and brain are severely undersized.  The results of the study suggest that the brains of microcephaly patients specialize too early, developing neurons before they can be adequately supported.

Scientists hope that continued research will help them to better understand more common disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

This information is for research purposes only.  It is not intended for any use in diagnostic procedures.

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