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Surprising Science

Brain Grown in a Dish

A computer chip marinated in neurons and stem cells creates super bursts of activity that could one day stimulate quiet areas to reboot after a stroke or other brain damage.

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers at the University of Florida have found a way to reanimate brain cells that have been quieted by strokes and traumatic head injuries. “The brain in the dish, or as the scientists prefer to call it, the ‘biologically relevant neural model,’ is a computer chip with an array of 60 microelectrodes that measure the action potential of neurons grown on top. The microelectrode array, or M.E.A., records the brain cell signals so the scientists can analyze them.” After simulating a stroke, which quiets the neurons on the chip, adult stem cells are added, after which the neurons regain strength. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The research could be a boon for stroke victims who typically suffer from large areas of silent neural networks around the area where the stroke occured. “If you rebuild an area [of the brain], you somehow have to get it to talk to the surrounding areas,’ says biomedical engineering professor Brandi Ormerod. The adult stem cells might actually facilitate the communication between existing brain cells and new ones, enabling doctors to one day reboot the silenced cells of a brain.”


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