It took 12 weeks to grow this tiny brain in a petri dish. It could revolutionize neuroscience.

Imagine a brain ravaged by neurological disease. Now imagine winding back the clock to before the damage was done.

I'm not trying to bum you out, I swear! Just picture it for a second.


Not much to look at, is it? Photo by DJ_/Flickr.

What if you knew that a person — or their brain, specifically — was almost guaranteed to develop a serious disease? Imagine what doctors could learn by watching it grow and develop, knowing precisely what to look for from the beginning. They'd chart and study it at every milestone, and they'd be able to pinpoint exactly when, and maybe exactly why, things started to go wrong.

From there, who knows what might happen. It could lead to big breakthroughs in treatment for diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. It could even lead to a cure.

Amazingly, we just got a little bit closer to that reality.

A team at The Ohio State University has grown a near-complete human brain in a petri dish. And it could give us some incredible answers.

Dr. Rene Anand took human skin cells and, over the course of about 12 weeks, turned them into a brain on par with about 99% of what you'd find in a five-week-old fetus.

Don't worry; the brain, which is about the size of a pencil eraser, isn't conscious. "We don't have any sensory stimuli entering the brain. This brain is not thinking in any way," Anand said. (Good to know it won't be plotting our demise any time soon.)

But it does have pretty much everything else that makes a brain a brain, including a spinal cord, a retina, and all the proper circuitry. The only thing it's missing is a heart to pump blood through it, but Dr. Anand hopes to hook the brain up to an artificial one someday soon.

Simply put, it's the most complete model of the human brain ever created. Before this, the best we'd ever done was still missing some pretty important stuff (you gotta have that cerebellum), and before that, the best we could muster were some replica rat brains.

Why go through all the trouble of growing a brain from scratch? Because it sure beats the alternatives.

An fMRI can't compete with poking and prodding a real, live brain. Photo by Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images.

There's so much that we don't know about the human brain. OK, so we know it looks like a chewed-up piece of gum. And that it starts to hurt when we stare at long division problems too long.

But what really happens to our brains when we get a concussion? What causes Parkinson's? How can we prevent strokes? Those are the questions that this brain might answer.

Dr. Anand hasn't yet given a full description of how he got skin cells to grow into a three-dimensional brain. (Previous teams have had some success with little tiny scaffolds for the cells to climb and grow on — kind of like itty-bitty jungle gyms.) But assuming his methods can be duplicated by others, and personalized (that's right! one day they might be able to grow a little replica of your very own brain), we could be on the verge of a really exciting future.

At the very least, these lab-created brains will give us a way to test new drugs on the human nervous system rather than on animals. It's more humane and much more effective. We'll also be able to find clues behind the causes of certain diseases, catch things we can't see in postmortem exams, and spot things we can only see through expensive and invasive testing.

Dr. Anand also says that his team's "organoid" brain might not be done growing. It could turn into a full, 100% genetic replica of a small fetus brain.

That's still pretty tiny, but it's room enough to hold a whole new world of possibility.

Kids say the darnedest things and, if you're a parent, you know that can make for some embarrassing situations. Every parent has had a moment when their child has said something unintentionally inappropriate to a stranger and they prayed they wouldn't take it the wrong way.

Cassie, the mother of 4-year-old Camryn, had one of the those moments when her child yelled, "Black lives matter" to a Black woman at a Colorado Home Depot.

But the awkward interaction quickly turned sweet when the Black woman, Sherri Gonzales, appreciated the comment and thanked the young girl.

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When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

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Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

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Most of us don't think of a bird as a cuddly pet, but Swoop the snuggly magpie didn't care what humans think. After he was rescued by New Zealander Matt Owens, the baby bird became a beloved part of the family—the family being Owens and his cat, Mowgli.

"It was just sitting there bleeding, sort of unable to walk properly and it looked like it had been abandoned by its mum so I just picked it up and decided to take it home," Owens told Newshub. The timing of finding Swoop couldn't have been better. Owens' dad had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the bond he formed taking care of Swoop gave Owens an extra dose of love and comfort.

Mowgli wasn't sure about the new family member at first, but soon took to Swoop and the two became fur-feather friends. The Dodo recently shared a video on Facebook highlighting Owens, Swoop, and Mowgli's story, and it's unbelievably adorable.

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