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First Full Organized Stem Cell Culture Model Developed

Experts from three institutions developed a stem cell culture method that recreates a complete model of the initial stages of the human central nervous system.

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        Engineers and biologists used their innovative stem cell culture method to create the first organized model of the human central nervous system's initial stages.

        To achieve this, the team, composed of experts from the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Weizmann Institute of Science, attached a row of stem cells measuring 4 millimeters long and 0.2 millimeters wide to a chip with tiny channels. 

        They added a gel to help the cells grow in three dimensions and chemical signals that assisted their transformation into a tubular structure. The team also introduced chemical signals that guided the cells' growth into more specialized cell types, forming an organized 3D human organoid that mimics the embryonic development of the forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain, and spinal cord within 40 days.

        According to Dr. Jianping Fu, mechanical engineering professor at U-M and corresponding author in Nature, their model is integral in promoting fundamental research to explore and understand early development and disorders of the human central nervous system.

        "The system itself is really groundbreaking. A model that mimics this structure and organization has not been done before, and it offers numerous possibilities for studying human brain development and especially developmental brain diseases," said Orly Reiner, the Berstein-Mason Professorial Chair of Neurochemistry at Weizmann and co-author of the study

        Dr. Guo-Li Ming, a Perelman Professor of Neuroscience at UPenn and co-author of the study, added that the team also wanted to determine the reasons humans have brain-related diseases:

        "We try to understand not only the basic biology of human brain development, but also diseases—why we have brain-related diseases, their pathology, and how we can come up with effective strategies to treat them." 

        Dr. Hongjun Song, a fellow UPenn professor and co-author, worked with Dr. Ming to develop protocols for cultivating and directing cell growth. They also characterized the model's structural and cellular characteristics. 

        Dr. Xufeng Xue, the study's primary author and a postdoctoral fellow in mechanical engineering at U-M, plans to use their model to investigate the dynamics between different parts of the brain during development and the mechanisms by which the brain communicates movement instructions through the spinal cord. 

        Read the full article here to learn more about the stem cell culture method.

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