Lab made Mini-Brains are growing their own Blood Vessels

Researchers at the Brown University have created 3D neural cell cultures of mini-brains which grows blood vessels. This breakthrough might help discover new kinds of large-scale lab investigations into diseases like stroke or concussion, where the interaction between the brain and its circulatory system is important.

Since the human brains have vasculatures(blood vessels) it would be easier if the 3D brain have the blood vessels too.Dr. Hoffman-Kim, an associate professor of medical science and of engineering at Brown had first discribed the mini brain method in 2015.While the engineered tissues appeared simple in comparision to some others, they were also relatively easy and inexpensive to make. But what had remained unnoticed was that 8000-cell spheres cultured from mouse cells were able of grow an elementary circulatory system. Closer inspection revealed that these tangles of spaghetti were self-assembled tubes made of the cells and proteins found in blood vessels.

The new study features a variety of imaging experiments in which staining and fluorescence techniques reveal those different cell types and proteins within the mini-brain spheres. The study also documents their integration with the neural tissues. Cross-sections under a transmission electron microscope, meanwhile, show that the capillaries are indeed hollow tubes that could transport blood.

There is no blood in a tiny mini-brain. They exist in an agarose well plate, not in a living animal. The capillary networks are not as dense as they would be in a real brain, but they dont last more than 2 weeks.

They have already started experiments to take advantage of the presence of vasculature. The aim is to look at what happens to the vasculature and neural cells when mini-brains are deprived of oxygen or glucose. Later, that same test bed could be used to examine the difference that different drugs or other treatments make.

“We can study a range of injury conditions, several drugs that are being tested, and several conditions, such as stroke and diabetes, together,” she explained.

Vasculature is particularly important not only because it delivers oxygen, glucose, and medicine to brain cells, but also because research shows that in strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, and brain injury, the brain sometimes attempts to redesign its vasculature to compensate for what’s happening to it. The mini-brains could allow researchers to observe such responses amid different lab-created conditions and treatments, notes Dr. Hoffman-Kim.