Scientist Madeline Lancaster grows ‘mini-brains’

Neurological biologist Madeline Lancaster develops cerebral organoids or mini-brains, which she describes as “three-dimensional neural tissues generated from human stem cells which allow us to model human brain development.”

In other words, organoids can model the architecture of a human embryonic brain.

According to the Financial Times who interviewed the scientist, each organoid is about the size of a lentil.

The implications of Lancaster’s work are enormous, as are the ethics at stake.

She’s building a standalone brain, one that exists without a human body. That to me sounds like some potential hybrid between robot and human, aka cyborg.

Of course, the organoids don’t have a consciousness — at least yet. But Lancaster established a connection between organoid neurons and mouse neurons in tests. “In theory you could make a fully formed human brain in a pig,” said Lancaster.

Lancaster’s stem cell research could also one day treat neurological diseases, including autism, dementia, and epilepsy.

As Lancaster creates the future, obvious moral questions come up around the harvesting of brains with further testing on lab-approved animals. As a scientist, she is willing to drive the discussion over so-called mini-brains forward.

By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger and curious explorer of the world who connects the dots between life, arts, and knowledge.