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Researchers find cause of autism with cultivated Avatar brains

Researchers find cause of autism with cultivated Avatar brains

Posted December. 20, 2019 07:42,   

Updated December. 20, 2019 07:42


A group of researchers led by Je Hyun-soo, an associate professor of bioengineering at Duke-NUS Medical School of Singapore, have found the cause of autism by culturing an Avatar brain (mini artificial brain) from a patient’s stem cells. There have been cases where the brains were grown with the cells from a normal person, but this marks the first time that the brains have been cultured from patients’ stem cells. Prof. Je and his team are also the first researchers to have come up with solutions to autism whose cause has been unknown so far. The findings were published on the latest issue of Science magazine, the world’s most prestigious science journal.  

The researchers extracted induced pluripotent stem cells from a patient of Angelman Syndrome, a type of autism, and succeeded in creating a bean-sized Avatar brain. Analysis found that the amount of certain potassium ion channels on the surface of brain cells dramatically increased compared to normal levels. In a test on mice, Prof. Je and his team injected a substance that reduces potassium ion channels into a mouse, and they found that its symptoms of Angelman Syndrome were alleviated over time.

It is impossible to sever the tissue of human brains as they are highly sensitive, but Avatar brains allow for conducting various examinations and tests, improving the chances of treatment. It is expected that the new findings will help yield a breakthrough in treating various brain disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as dementia.

Jin-Han Lee likeday@donga.com · Joo-Young Jeon aimhigh@donga.com