The cerebral organoids in existence today fall far short of earning the “brain” label, mini or otherwise.
But a trio of recent publications suggests that cerebral-organoid science may be turning a corner—and that the future of such brain studies may depend less on trying to create tiny perfect replicas of whole brains and more on creating highly replicable modules of developing brain parts that can be snapped together like building blocks.
Veritable colleges of mini-brains were soon thriving under various protocols in laboratories around the world.
Much to the frustration of impatient experimentalists, however, the mini-brains’ similarity to the real thing only went so far.
Their shrunken anatomies were distorted; they lacked blood vessels and layers of tissue; neurons were present but important glial cells that make up the supportive white matter of the brain were often missing.
Worst of all was the organoids’ inconsistency: They differed too much from one another.