Replacing Animal Testing
Blog Feb 25, 2016
Recently an eye-catching tech that brings a new model for drug test was presented. The project is making mini brains that are of same even greater significance than body environment for compound tests, and it’s highly potential for an exemption of animal applications in drug test.
The model was developed by scientist team from Johns Hopkins University and led by Thomas Hartung. The scientific team used pluripotent stem cells to produce the brain cells that later formed the mini brain. It’s called mini brain right because of the mini size. It’s reported that the diameters of the “brain” are only 350μm, which is impossible to observe its activities with our bare eyes.
Johns Hopkins’ scientist team is not the only one doing the project, but the one with best research progress. Thomas Hartung said they made “mini coopers” as the mini brains are identical and can be used as a fixed parameter for comparative studies. And it’s one of the dominant differences their lab held.
More importantly, the mini brain is not purely a collection of neuron cells, other minor glia cells like astrocytes, Schwann cells and oligodendrocytes are also included working as the supportive cells. It means that the mini brains can produce neuron activities and can really function as a comprehensive living unit in researches and studies.
However, the current situation for the project is that they still can’t replace the use of animals in therapeutic testing as the model is yet to be more mature. But it will be put into practice in very short period of time, one year or less.
The living stimulation of neuron environment can not only be used as an alternative way for compound tests, also can be applied for the studies of neuron derived diseases like Autism, Alzheimer, and Parkinson’s disease. At present, the study on Autism is conducted by the team. Cells from Autism children patient were acquired to prepare mini brains, and candidate drugs against the diseases were tested on the models, providing one of the most advanced models for study needs in drug discovery field.
Another significant application of mini brains is compound toxicity test, which is much simple than drug test but more frequently needed in various aspects of chemical researches.
The new model provides a more accessible way for the learning of neuron diseases, as well as the development of their drugs while offering a better alternative than existing ones to animal testing that are against by many people and groups. Once it’s mature enough with less cost and be put into the market, many scientific studies will benefit from it, let’s look forward to it.
Submitted by BOC Sciences