Wednesday, July 15, 2020

What Miniature Lab-Grown Brains Reveal About the Effects of Covid-19

Organoids are helping scientists study the coronavirus.

A test tube containing brain organoids. Photo: Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, Johns Hopkins University

By Emily Mullin

The tiny blobs of brain tissue that Thomas Hartung, MD, PhD, grows in his lab at Johns Hopkins University aren’t much to look at. Just barely visible, they are little more than squishy white specks.

Known as “mini brains,” or organoids, these minuscule structures made from stem cells contain neurons that spontaneously emit electrical activity as a real brain would. The ones Hartung grows resemble the brain of a human fetus at five months of development.

Hartung and his team are using the brain organoids to better understand SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. What they’ve found so far about the brain’s susceptibility to the virus is concerning: “It’s bad news adding to a pile of bad news,” Hartung tells OneZero.  Read more >>