InnovationInsights into autism and dementia: Revealed by the Lab-Grown...

Insights into autism and dementia: Revealed by the Lab-Grown “Mini Brains”

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Insights into autism and dementia:

Brain Organoids or “mini-brains” are the blobs of human brain cells cultivated in the lab are transforming the existing understanding of neural development and diseases like autism, dementia. A thorough research has been going on to make these laboratory-made mini-brains more real.

Mini-brains are tiny, creamy, amorphous blobs suspended in a dish of clear, pink liquid, which are visible to naked eyes. Under a powerful microscope and appropriate staining, their internal complexity is revealed with intricate whorls and layers of red, blue and green. These are human brain cells, complete with branching outgrowths, which make them connected with each other, sparking electrical impulses. These sparking impulses create the thoughts of our brain. These collections of cells are made in the Madeline Lancaster Laboratory at the University of Cambridge.

These structures known as Brain Organoids or mini-brains, hold immense promise in helping us understand the human brain. Researchers have produced fresh and interesting insights into how this most mysterious organ, functions. These studies would also tell, how the brain functions differently in people with autism and how it goes awry in conditions such as dementia and motor neuron diseases.

To fully explore the potential of brain cells, neuroscientists want to make them bigger and complex like the real human brain cells. Researchers are also attempting to grow them with blood vessels, some of the studies are also focusing on fusing two organoids, each mimicking a different part of the brain. If they succeed, their lab- grown mini brains could model development and diseases in greater detail, paving the way to new insights and treatments.

But as researchers dwell into making the mini-brains, worthy of their name, the pertinent question that arises is; at what point will their creations approach sentience.

The key to developing organoids was the discovery of stem cells.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is autism?
In the first three years of life, autism is usually diagnosed as a neurodevelopmental condition. In general, parents become concerned when their child has delayed speech development, limited social interaction, or limited interests and activities. It is possible that the child avoids direct eye contact and exhibits odd behaviors, such as focusing on the spinning wheel of a toy car. Symptoms may include hand flapping, self-stimulation, or walking on toes.

Autism’s etiology is unknown, but it is generally believed that multiple factors may contribute to the disorder. There are a number of genetic, environmental, metabolic, and neurological conditions that affect the normal functioning of the brain. Three domains are required to diagnose autism: 1) social relatedness, 2) communication/play, and 3) restricted interests and activities.

There is marked impairment in non-verbal communication, peer relationships, and social-emotional reciprocity that is associated with social relatedness.
A lack of developmentally-appropriate make-believe or social play and an absence of communication/play are two examples.

Stereotypes and motor mannerisms are examples of restricted interests and activities, which include preoccupations, nonfunctional routines and rituals.
Since each child has different strengths and deficits, treatment planning is complex. Since early detection and provision of services improve long-term prognosis, early diagnosis is particularly critical to improve a child’s adaptive skills and future functioning. Clinical diagnosis and treatment of these disorders are complicated by the diverse expressions of these disorders both across and within individuals.

What are early signs of autism?
A parent or relative should report developmental delays or behavioral problems to their child’s pediatrician to obtain appropriate referrals for evaluation if they notice any of the following.
What are some symptoms of autism that parents and caregivers can look for?
In children with autism, information in the environment is processed and responded to in a unique way. Parents become concerned when their children display aggressive or self-injurious behaviors.

What is the difference between autism and Asperger’s disorder?
Individuals with Asperger’s disorder do not demonstrate delays in language acquisition, unusual behaviors, or environmental responsiveness similar to children with autism. Consequently, parents are often unconcerned about their child’s early development. It is possible for a child diagnosed with autism after three years old if they are achieving their developmental milestones normally.

They are only referred for evaluation because their parents observe that they behave differently from their peers of the same age. Socially awkward individuals may lack awareness of conventional social rules or demonstrate limited empathy. Disengaged conversations, diminished eye contact, and inability to pick up social cues or understand gestures affect social interaction

A person’s speech pattern may be unusual and lack inflection, or it may be formal, but excessively loud or high pitched. The subtleties of language, such as irony and humor, may not be understood by children with Asperger’s syndrome. Frequently, they do not recognize the give-and-take nature of a conversation, and this makes it difficult for them to initiate and/or maintain conversations. As a result, they seem to be “talking at” others rather than talking to them.

A child with Asperger’s disorder, for instance, had social difficulties due to his restricted and circumscribed interests. His monologues on planets were delivered to his peers in a slow, methodical manner. As he talked about planets, he did not notice the frustration of his classmates. Children tried to initiate conversation by interjecting comments, but they were ignored. Consequently, the other children eventually walked away feeling unfulfilled and bored by the repetition of the same topic.

Cognitive ability is another difference between Asperger’s syndrome and autism. Despite the fact that some individuals with autism experience intellectual disabilities, By definition, a person with Asperger’s cannot possess a “clinically significant” cognitive delay, and most people with Asperger’s are intelligent. In general, Asperger’s disorder appears to result in better outcomes than autism, although this may be partly due to better cognitive and/or verbal abilities.

Are there treatments available for autism?
Autism cannot be cured with specific treatments. Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by developmental delays, speech impairments, language impairments, social impairments, and cognitive impairments that vary from child to child. A comprehensive treatment plan must be developed to target each child’s strengths and functional limitations.

Are there medication treatments for autism?
Autism does not have a medication treatment that treats its core symptoms. Nevertheless, children with autism often exhibit disturbing repetitive, stereotypical or self-injurious behaviors that can be distressing for both the child and the parent. A child who hits himself repeatedly, has mood instability, or is aggressive towards other children or family members may need medication intervention.

Risperidone has been approved by the FDA for treating aberrant behaviors associated with autism, including mood instability and aggression. In addition to medication studies currently underway, there are no FDA-approved treatments for autism problem behaviors. Through the management of severe and challenging behaviors associated with ASD, pharmaceutical interventions may enhance the ability of individuals with ASD to benefit from educational and other interventions.

Medications are often used to treat aggression, self-injury, hyperactivity, inattention, anxiety, compulsive-like behaviors, repetitive behaviors, and sleep disturbances. Children and adolescents with autism may benefit from SSRIs for symptoms of mood or anxiety.

Why do children with autism have difficulty learning in a regular classroom setting?
Children with autism spectrum disorders often cannot learn in a regular classroom setting for a variety of reasons.
For this reason, parents and caregivers should explore options in order to maximize the child’s abilities. A child and adolescent psychiatrist or pediatrician can provide you with information about the resources available in your community.

What is the difference between autism and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified?
Diagnostically, autism falls under the category of pervasive developmental disorders. It is characterized by language impairments, social impairments, and a pattern of restricted and stereotyped behaviors, interests, and activities. It is necessary to meet the following criteria in order to make a diagnosis of autism (autism disorder).

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