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The tiny hollow "organoids", measuring three to four millimetres across, have a structure similar to that of an immature human brain including defined regions. But the scientists insist they are still a long way from building a working artificial brain - or even replacement parts for damaged brains.
The goal was to produce a biological tool that can be used to investigate the workings of the brain, better understand brain diseases and test out new drugs. One expert said the "audacious" discovery could lead to the future creation of a simple animal-like brain that could be linked to sense organs and had the ability to learn.
Other laboratory "models" of human organs have previously been grown from stem cells, including those replicating the liver, intestine, pituitary gland and eye.
The key to the new research involved nourishing immature cells in a gel-like "matrix" that allowed the complex organoid structures to develop. These were then transferred to a spinning bioreactor which provided extra nutrients and oxygen, enabling them to grow much larger in size. After two months of development the "mini-brains" had become globular spheres up to four millimetres in diameter. Each one mimicked the layered structure of a human brain growing within a developing foetus.
Among the identifiable regions were a cerebral cortex, forebrain, choroid plexus - the body that produces cerebro-spinal fluid - and even a rudimentary retina.
Originally posted by Thorneblood
Wonder how long it will be before they grow something like that specifically for computing...
The gel packs formed the basis of the bio-neural circuitry, which was essentially an organic computer system. The packs contained neural fibers surrounded in a blue gel with metallic interfaces on the top and bottom. They helped store more information and operated at faster speeds than isolinear circuitry.
The fibers in an individual gel pack were capable of making billions of connections, thus generating an incredibly sophisticated and responsive computing architecture. This kind of organic circuitry allowed computers to "think" in very similar ways to living organisms; by using "fuzzy logic", they could effectively operate by making a "best guess" answer to complex questions rather than working through all possible calculations. This was due in part to the inherent ability of organic neural systems to correlate chaotic patterns that eluded the capacities of conventional hardware.
Bio-neural circuitry is a technology incorporated in bio-neural gel packs. It was incorporated into Federation Starship USS Voyager around 2371. Much of the usual isolinear circuitry was replaced with bio-neural cells, which can process information more efficiently, and hence speed up computer response time. The Intrepid-class was the first equipped with bio-neural systems.
One expert said the "audacious" discovery could lead to the future creation of a simple animal-like brain that could be linked to sense organs and had the ability to learn.