Miniature brains of Neanderthals grown in the laboratory

Miniature Neanderthal brains grown in lab

Researchers have succeeded in growing Neanderthal minimorphic brains in the lab. In doing so, they wanted to learn about the differences in brain structure separating us from our distant relatives and to better understand why our species became dominant.

So far, the best insight into how mozgi of our mysterious extinct relatives, comes from analyzing the shape and volume of their fossilized mofrom the skull. However, not much can be deduced from such a study. To change this, a group of scientistsow grew a miniature m in the labozgi Neanderthalow. Perhaps this pomoc researchers to understand why Homo sapiens became the dominant species, a Homo neanderthalensis became extinct.

As reported „Science”, scientistoIn the laboratory, it was possible to create miniature mozgi Neanderthalow. This was done using modern methods of extracting ancient DNA combined with gene editing techniquesoIn CRISPR and organoid culture methodsow.

Organoids are miniature versions of rocommon organsow cultured from comostem cells, whichore preserve their key anatomical features. These small, trojdimensional models are an invaluable aid in the study of the. CRISPR, on the other hand, is a groundbreaking and relatively easy method for editing geneow, thanks to whichoThe genes can be freely manipulated – unnecessary fragments can be deleted or new ones can be pasted in precise places. In this wayob can quite freely redesign the genome to affect the properties of the organism’sow. A spectacular example of the use of this technique was the replacement of a defective gene in a human embryo or the encoding into the DNA of a bacterium. krotki film. And then reading this film, after extracting it from the DNA of successive generations of bacteria.

By combining these three techniques in the lab, minima were grownozgi neanderthalow, whichore are the size of pea grains. This was reported by Alysson Muotri, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego during a conference „Imagination and Human Evolution” organized at this very university.

His teamoł focused on one of about 200 genesow encoding proteins, whichory odroThe commonomodern humans from the Neanderthalow. It is the NOVA1 gene. It plays a role in the early development of mozgu in wspomodern humans, and has been linked to the risk of autism and schizophrenia. This gene in wspoIn modern humans and in Neanderthalow roThey differ by only one base pair in DNA.

Muotri and his team began their work by extracting the comorec skory from "neurotypical person" – Individuals without any known genetic defects associated with neurological disorders. Then by manipulating the genes they transformed them into pluripotent cellsostem cells, that is, those from which theorych any other comork of the organism. Using the CRISPR method, the researchers inserted a Neanderthal base pair into the human NOVA1 gene.

After several months of culture, organoids grown from comostem records endowed with DNA Neanderthalow, whichore researchers have named neanderoids. Porown them to coomodern organoidsoin the human mozg produced under identical conditions, the complexoł discovered that the comoneuronal cells of the modified neanderoid migrate faster in the body when the structures of the mozgu. The researchers linked this to the shape of the neanderoid.

On the left neanderoids, on the right human miniature mozgi. Photo. Alysson Muotri

The researchers also noted some rodifferences in the structure of. The neanderoid looked more like popcorn, while the organoids of human mozgow were more spherical. RoThe differences also concerned the network of neural connections. The researchers noted that the wayob how neurons are related to each other and how they develop resembles that of the u osob with autism spectrum disorder.

– I don’t want to, cfown autistic children with Neanderthals, but this is an important observation – admitted Muotri, whoory himself has a stepson suffering from autism. – U wspoł modern humans such changes are associated with defects in the development of mozgu. They reflect the problems of socialization. If we believe that this is one of our advantages in porown comparison with Neanderthals, it is a significant – added.

The observed changes indicate that our distant relatives could not communicate effectively with each other. Researchers believe that this may have been the cause of their evolutionary failure. – The roThe differences may have affected the ego species’ ability to socialize – admitted Muotri.

Neanderoid cultureow has reached a stage in whichoryme complexoł mohead to record electrical signals arising in nerve tissue. Researchers now want to connect the minimumozgi Neanderthalow to a robotoin crab-like structures and get them to control the movement of roboticow.