How to uncover the secret of living human brain? The surgeon can help.
How to uncover the secret of living human brain? The surgeon can help.
Do experiments with "living human brain"! No, it's not a horror story.

this is a 3D model that shows neurons from the human brain:

what is unusual about this cell is that it really comes from the human brain and is still alive at the time of the study. The activity of cells means that researchers can not only master the morphological structure, but also understand how these nerve cells transmit electrical signals and communicate with neighboring cells, which provides more reference value.

in the past, neuroscientists could only learn about the brain through experimental animals, images, or human brain tissue donated after death. Magnetic resonance imaging can understand the activity of brain regions, and dead brain tissue specimens can show fine neural structures, but none of them can see how individual neurons complete the transmission of signals. In experimental animals, it is easier to observe the activity of individual cells, but they are slightly different from human beings.

and researchers at the Allen Institute of brain Science have taken a special approach: teaming up with neurosurgeons. Doctors often operate on patients with brain tumors and severe epilepsy to remove some diseased brain tissue, and during the operation, doctors often inevitably need to remove a little bit of healthy cortical tissue. In the past, these removed tissues would only become medical waste, but they were a rare opportunity for researchers.

so, with the consent of the doctor and the patient, a small amount of healthy brain tissue cut off during these operations is placed in a special container and quickly transported to the hands of the researchers. The researchers will continue to provide nutritional support to these nerve tissues to keep them alive. These living tissues can survive in the laboratory for another three days, which is enough for various research measurements.

(these are the brain tissue samples obtained from doctors)

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data samples are all from surgery, which may be worrying: although only tissues that look "normal" have been selected. but could they actually have been affected by the disease? However, after comparing the brain tissue from patients with tumors and patients with epilepsy, the researchers found that they were very similar and did not appear to have any pathological features.

the electrical activity and structure of these cells are recorded in the Institute's Cell Type Database, which recently made the first batch of human cell data available to the public. So far, the institute has published data on 300 different living neurons from 36 patients, and the first 3D model is one of them.

this is only the first step. The data obtained by the researchers are like small jigsaw puzzles, and it takes a lot of effort to put together a complete human brain. It is hoped that these data will help people better understand themselves and brain diseases.