Austrian Researchers Grow Cancerous Mini Brains in a Dish

25/07/2018 - 2 minutes

Researchers in Vienna are growing mini brains that mimic the onset and development of brain cancer, which could be used to compare the efficacy of different treatments.

Because of their cellular complexity, brain cancers have been difficult to study in animals. Glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer, is particularly difficult to treat because it grows quickly and often spreads to other parts of the body. 

To study diseases and develop new treatments in the lab, biotechs have developed a variety of miniature organs, or ‘organoids’, that can be grown outside the body. ‘Mini brain’ versions of these have been grown before, but scientists at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences have now successfully developed a ‘mini brain’ to model cancers such as glioblastoma. 

These organoids contain diverse cell types found in the actual human brain and allow the researchers to observe how brain cancers grow and develop. Furthermore, the Austrian mini brain can be used in preclinical testing to compare the efficacy of different drugs.

neuron cell culture organoid minibrain

“As a next step it will be important to foster clinical partnerships, so we can work towards translating our findings from the bench to the bedside,” says Jürgen Knoblich, who led the Viennese research team.

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US Scientists have also created brain organoids that mimic glioblastoma by editing two genes in selected cells earlier this year. By shedding light on how brain tumors develop and enabling comparisons of potential treatments, the Austrian and US organoid technologies may eventually help biotechs overcome this hurdle.

Images by Sebastian Kaulitzki/Shutterstock

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