If you're like most people, you or someone you love has been touched by the devastating effects of degenerative brain diseases and nervous-system disorders like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and others. These diseases steal your loved ones right before your eyes.
For years, you watch the once-lively person you love fade away. One day, they're forgetting where they left their car keys, even though they are on the same table they've left them on for decades. Then, they forget your kids' names, then yours.
Of course, brain disorders are incredibly challenging for doctors to treat. There are no cures, and few treatments have proven to be more effective than giving your loved one a few more weeks or months of lucidity.
Fortunately, medical advances the past few decades have been nothing short of remarkable. Who would have imagined a couple of years ago, for instance, just how many treatments and cures there now are for cancer?
Advances are also being made with degenerative brain disorders. Although, so far with too few treatments for anyone to get too excited about.
However, Ohio State University scientists this week have announced a huge step forward in studying brains, and the diseases that affect them. They have grown the first-ever brain, from scratch, in a laboratory.
This brain is tiny. It's the size of a pencil eraser. And it's not quite fully formed, although it has 99% of the cell types in our brains. But it is light-years ahead of previous attempts at growing a brain.
It is likely ushering in a near future of amazing medical advances. Scientists say these lab-grown brains can be used to test drugs and treatments for brain disorders.
Of course, creating human organs inside a lab raises a boatload of ethical questions. Like, "Are these brains alive?" "Can they feel?"
Answers to these questions will play out over time. But, when it comes to questions about medical ethics, some people may take comfort in knowing they are not grown from embryos. Ohio State scientists say they grew the brain from human skin cells, and say the brains do not feel or think.