In summer 2013 Madeleine Lancaster and Jürgen Knoblich, from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, published their exciting technology, to grow 3D brain models from stem cells, in the scientific journal Nature. This entailed a flood of reports in the media and Madeline Lancaster, post-doctoral scientist in Jürgen Knoblich’s lab, was awarded the „Eppendorf Award for Young European Investigators”. The groundbreaking technology can lead to enormous possibilities investigating brain diseases and since the first publication the finding was replicated in several prominent laboratories.
Now the exciting discovery is highlighted in the "10 Breakthrough Technologies List" of the MIT Technology Review. The magazine of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reports on the most exciting innovations and technologies of our time. Each year their list identifies the ten milestones from the past year that solve difficult problems or create powerful new ways of using technology. For each awarded technology a story is written and in the one titled “Brain Organoids”, Madeleine Lancaster and Jürgen Knoblich have been identified as “key players”, working on new methods to grow human brain cells.
This technology could unlock the mysteries of dementia, mental illness, and other neurological disorders. Using this method the early development of the brain can be examined and developmental disorders of the brain, like autism or schizophrenia, can now be investigated. A further goal is to examine the evolution of the brain size of humans and to follow the question, why the human brain – compared with those of animals – is so large.