A potential application for generating human cerebral organoids (brainlike structures) will be the ability to study brain development, model disease, and gain a better understanding of actual brain physiology.
A news/views on a paper that was published last month in nature (Cerebral organoids model human brain development and microcephaly)
here are some excerpts from the commentary:
Lancaster et al. have provided a major leap by developing a method to grow miniature human brain-like structures (cerebral organoids) from embryonic stem cells in vitro. The “minibrains” recapitulate a surprising number of features of human embryonic brain development, heralding a new phase of modeling human disease. …Even regions within a cerebral organoid show the normal process of neocortical development intriguingly well. For example, the horizontal, oblique, and vertical orientations of dividing stem cell progenitors closely resemble the trend in the human brain rather than in the mouse brain… Lancaster et al. further show that human cerebral organoids model some human diseases better than do mice….They do not grow beyond a 4-mm-diameter size, apparently because the lack of a blood supply limits access to nutrients. They lack many brain parts and cell types. And it is not yet clear how close the electrical potentials in organoids are to brain potentials, nor whether organoid neurons connect with the regions seen in an actual brain. Ethicists need not worry just yet, and may never need to worry, about the philosophical implications of “consciousness in a dish.”
See on www.sciencemag.org