Menu

“Minibrains” May Soon Include Neanderthal DNA

Brain organoids engineered to carry the genetic material could reveal how our brains are similar to and different from those of our closest relatives.

May 14, 2018
Ashley Yeager

ISTOCK, HALAMKAHuman stem cells edited to contain Neanderthal DNA will soon be grown into “miniature brains,” The Guardian reports.

“We’re seeing if we can find basic differences in how nerve cells function that may be a basis for why humans seem to be cognitively so special,” Svante Pääbo, who directs the genetics department at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, where the experiments are being performed, tells the publication.

Pääbo and his colleagues have already extracted Neanderthal genes for the development of the skull and face and inserted them into mice. They have also extracted genes for pain perception from Neanderthal DNA and edited them into frogs’ genomes to determine whether the pain thresholds between humans and Neanderthals differ, according to The Guardian. Now, the researchers want to do the same with three genes linked to the growth of neurons in organoids.

Neanderthals, recent research revealed, drew cave art, buried their dead, and had bigger brains than humans. So by testing how the Neanderthal genes work in brain organoids, the scientists can determine if connections between nerve cells, electrical activity, and early brain development are similar to modern humans.

“We want to know … is there something hiding there that really sets us apart?” Pääbo says. “Is there a biological basis for why modern humans went on to become millions and eventually billions of people, spread across the world and have culture?”

August 2018

Conscious Rodents?

The complex ethics of transplanting human brain organoids into rats and mice

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

New Compact Refrigerators Designed for Secure and Sustainable Clinical Storage

New Compact Refrigerators Designed for Secure and Sustainable Clinical Storage

A new series of compact refrigerators has been specifically developed to address the need of clinical laboratories and patient care facilities for cold storage equipment that enable secure and energy-efficient storage of vaccines, medicines, lab kits and breast milk, while offering quiet operation and a small footprint.

New 25 ml divided reservoir offers lowest dead volume on the market

New 25 ml divided reservoir offers lowest dead volume on the market

INTEGRA has expanded its Clear Advantage™ product family to include a divided reservoir, offering 5 and 10 ml volumes side-by-side, while still nesting comfortably in the company’s standard 25 ml reusable, sturdy base. A combination of design and innovation offers a pipetting experience with less reagent and plastic waste, and the lowest dead volume on the market.

BioIVT Acquires Optivia Biotechnology, Adding Transporter Assay Products and Services to its ADME-Tox Portfolio

BioIVT Acquires Optivia Biotechnology, Adding Transporter Assay Products and Services to its ADME-Tox Portfolio

BioIVT, a leading provider of research models and services for drug development, today announced that it has acquired Santa Clara, CA-based Optivia Biotechnology and its comprehensive portfolio of transporter assays, multi-transporter models, transporter systems biology, and molecular transport research solutions.

New England Biolabs® Launches NEBNext Direct® Custom Ready Panels for Efficient Targeted Re-sequencing

New England Biolabs® Launches NEBNext Direct® Custom Ready Panels for Efficient Targeted Re-sequencing

New England Biolabs (NEB®) today announced the launch of the NEBNext Direct Custom Ready Panels. The new panels — coupled with the proprietary NEBNext Direct target enrichment technology — enable the rapid development and deployment of a customized target enrichment panel by allowing users to select from an extensive library of genes to produce sequencing data with high specificity and coverage uniformity.