Brains Now Grow in Petri Dishes

Obviously, you can grow meat in a petri dish, but now there's a way to grow active brain cells in a dish. And what's even cooler is that they might be capable of storing memories, just like a real brain.

According to a study done at the University of Pittsburg, these brain cells grow and form neural networks just like animal brains:

The team fashioned ring-shaped networks of brain cells that were not only capable of transmitting an electrical impulse, but also remained in a state of persistent activity associated with memory formation, said lead researcher Henry Zeringue [zuh-rang], a bioengineering professor in Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering. Magnetic resonance images have suggested that working memories are formed when the cortex, or outer layer of the brain, launches into extended electrical activity after the initial stimulus, Zeringue explained.

How did they do it? In short, they extracted cells from the brain of a hippopotamus rat, fused them with proteins, 'turned off' any inhibitor cells, and then ran an electrical current through the cells to stimulate growth. As a result, they were able to get the network of braincells to replicate the same types of functions as a normal brain, just to a lesser extent.

Zeringue and his colleagues were able to sustain the resulting burst of network activity for up to what in neuronal time is 12 long seconds. Compared to the natural duration of .25 seconds at most, the model's 12 seconds permitted an extensive observation of how the neurons transmitted and held the electrical charge, Zeringue said.

Am I the only one that sees this experiment going awry and spawning a supervillian the likes of which we've never seen? [Pitt via Science Blogs]