A new paper shows that transplanting human brain organoids into rats can restore function in the visual cortex
For many years, researchers have tried to treat brain and spinal cord injuries and degeneration with various types of stem cells. The logic is that these stem cells might be able to engraft, differentiate into neurons and other support cells, and make functional connections with other neurons, restoring lost brain functions. While tantalizing, progress in this field has been slow.
Meanwhile, there has been an explosion in research on organoids, which are mini self-organizing tissues created in vitro from stem cells. Organoids have been created for a variety of tissues, including the brain.
In this new study in Cell Stem Cell, the authors transplanted human brain organoids into the forebrain of rats with an injured visual cortex.
Amazingly, the implanted organoids formed extensive functional connections with other neurons in the rat brain. Indeed, the implanted organoid cells became responsive to light.
The result suggests that organoids may be capable of restoring lost function to the brain, and represent an exciting new direction.