Scientist creates 99% complete human brain in lab dish By Michael Blaustein August 19, 2015 | 12:49pm Modal Trigger Photo: Shutterstock Have you ever dreamed of being a mad scientist in a lab filled with living brains stored in spooky jars? Dream no more, because an Ohio State University professor has got you covered. Biological chemistry and pharmacology professor Rene Anand claims to have grown a nearly complete human brain in his lab that is about as mature as the brain of a 5-week-old fetus. Anand’s lab-grown brain is the size of a pencil eraser and contains 99 percent of the genes found in a complete human brain. “It not only looks like the developing brain, its diverse cell types express nearly all genes like a brain,” Anand said. With all those genes, it should come as no surprise that the tiny brain has a spinal cord, signaling circuitry and even a retina. The only important thing that’s missing is consciousness. “We don’t have any sensory stimuli entering the brain. This brain is not thinking in any way,” Anand assured The Guardian. Modal Trigger This image of the lab-grown brain is labeled to show identifiable structures: the cerebral hemisphere, the optic stalk, and the cephalic flexure, a bend in the mid-brain region, all characteristic of the human fetal brain.Photo: The Ohio State University Anand claims to have grown the brain by converting regular adult skin cells into pluripotent stem cells that can be programmed to grow into any kind of bodily tissue. “Once a cell is in that pluripotent state, it can become any organ – if you know what to do to support it to become that organ,” Anand said. “The brain has been the holy grail because of its enormous complexity compared to any other organ.” Anand pulled off his amazing feat by mimicking the conditions that naturally occur in utero in his lab and 15 weeks later he had grown the equivalent of a 5-week-old fetal human brain. He couldn’t grow a bigger brain because after five weeks the brain needs a vascular system, something Anand can’t produce yet. “We’d need an artificial heart to help the brain grow further in development,” said Anand. While creating the brain was an impressive achievement, the real value in Anand’s discovery is that the lab brain could provide a platform to test treatments for brain conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The research also opens the door to extremely personalized medicine. “If you have an inherited disease, for example, you could give us a sample of skin cells, we could make a brain and then ask what’s going on,” Anand told The Guardian.