Tiny droplet-sized pieces of human brain tissue have been transplanted into the brains of rats, in work that could pave the way for new treatments for devastating brain injuries.
According to the Guardian, the ground-breaking study showed that sesame-sized pieces of human brain tissue neurons were able to integrate into rat brains, receive normal blood flow, and communicate with rat neurons.
The team behind the work suggests that eventually doctors may be able to grow small pieces of brain tissue from a patient's own cells in the lab and use them to repair brain damage caused by stroke or trauma.
Isaac Chen, a physician and assistant professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues grew a human brain in vitro until it reached a diameter of about 1,5 mm. The pieces of brain tissue were then transplanted into the brains of adult mice that had suffered injuries to their visual cortex.
Within three months, the transplanted tissue had incorporated into their host's brain, connecting it to the blood supply, expanding the original tumor and sending signals that connected to the rat's neurons, according to the study published in in Cell Stem Cell.
The scientists did not evaluate whether the implants improved the rats' function, but the tests showed that human neurons emitted electrical signals when the rats were exposed to flashing lights.