Enhanced Humans

Pharmaceutical companies grow brain-like tissue from stem cells to research autism

The Breakthrough

Pharmaceutical company Roche is working with Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute to use “brains in a dish” which are grown from cells developed from skin. One study starting later this year will use the technique to test a drug approved for people with autism.

The Implications

Previously, it’s been difficult to test autism drugs because doctors can’t take biopsies from patients’ brains. The fact that brain-like tissue can be grown without embryonic stem cells make them much easier to obtain. Google is targeting autism spectrum disorders as well, using its database of 10,000 genomes of people with cancer to get a better idea of the biological origins of the condition.

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