Rat Brains On A Microchip Could Help Cure Alzheimer’s_Featured_, Sci-Tech Saturday, October 27th, 2012
“Our device is designed to be the most biologically realistic model of brain tissue developed in the lab thus far,” Anil Achyuta, a bioengineer who led the brain-on-a-chip research at the nonprofit Draper Laboratory in Florida, said in a statement.
Unlike the microchips inside computers, cellphones and other gadgets, this brain-on-a-chip — which is made with living cells taken from rats — isn’t imprinted with an electrical circuit. Instead, scientists consider it a microchip because it has a network of tiny channels inside.
Achyuta and his team hope to use the brain-on-a-chip to study important brain functions and problems, such as strokes or hardening arteries. They also hope they’ll be able to use the chip to test drugs and other therapies for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Each chip contains neurons, the brain cells that carry information, along with supportive brain cells and cells taken from the inside of rats’ blood vessels. That mix of cells allows researchers to use the chip to study how the brain and the circulatory system communicate with each other, which plays an important part in many neurological diseases.
Tiny channels in the chip carry liquid between the cells, giving them the nutrients they need to live, much like flowing blood would in the brain. The channels also have another use: If scientists want to study how a drug might affect brain cells, for instance, they could pump the drug into the chip through its liquid channels.