Brains in a dish: an introduction

 

 A ‘cerebral organoid’ after 30 days of culture grown from stem cells by Selina Wray and colleagues at UCL. Image: Christopher Lovejoy and Charlie Arber, UCL Institute of Neurology.

A ‘cerebral organoid’ after 30 days of culture grown from stem cells by Selina Wray and colleagues at UCL. Image: Christopher Lovejoy and Charlie Arber, UCL Institute of Neurology.

Can our brains exist outside our head? 

UCL researchers Selina Wray and Christopher Lovejoy are transforming skin cells into brain cells (neurons) to grow 'brains in a dish' in an investigation of how the brain works - and how different dementias impact the brain on a cellular level.   

Created Out of Mind has invited artist Charlie Murphy, science writer Phillip Ball, BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh and clinical neurologist Nick Fox to donate their skin samples to this research and each respond to their growing brain organoid - or ‘mini-brain’ - through scientific, personal and creative explorations.  

Each member of the team is observing and reflecting on the differences in growth and degeneration between their own cells and cells affected by Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) and familial Alzheimer’s Disease (fAD). They aim to open up new insights into this important area of research and increase understanding of the impact of dementias and other degenerative conditions on brain function.

This project also considers the dramatic implications that brain changes can have for wellbeing, cognitive function and life expectancy, as well as some of the metaphysical, ethical, and personal challenges posed by growing human brain tissue. 

You can view some of the responses so far on our blog, photo diary and public engagement pages. 

For further information, please contact Charlie Murphy or Selina Wray 

 

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