Why in news? Scientists at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) recently outlined a plan for a potentially revolutionary new area of research called “organoid intelligence”, that aims to create “bio-computers”.
What are brain organoids?
- In a quest to develop systems that are more relevant to humans, scientists are building 3D cultures of brain tissue in the lab, called brain organoids.
- These “mini-brains” (with a size of up to 4 mm) are built using human stem cells and capture many structural and functional features of a developing human brain.
- Brain organoids developed in the lab aren’t sophisticated enough and do not have blood circulation, limits how they can grow.
What is the new ‘bio-computer’?
- The researchers scheme will combine brain organoids with modern computing methods to create “bio-computers”.
- They have announced plans to couple the organoids with machine learning by growing the organoids inside flexible structures affixed with multiple electrodes (similar to the ones used to take EEG readings from the brain).
- These structures will be able to record the firing patterns of the neurons and also deliver electrical stimuli, to mimic sensory stimuli.
- The response pattern of the neurons and their effect on human behaviour or biology will then be analysed by machine-learning techniques.
- Recently, scientists were able to grow human neurons on top of a microelectrode array that could both record and stimulate these neurons.
- Brain organoids can also be developed using stem cells from individuals with neurodegenerative or cognitive disorders.