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The neuroscience of the Neanderthal


Earlier this year Prospect science writer Philip Ball had his own “mini-brain” grown in a laboratory. Researchers now plan to put the method to different use, and in doing so learn more about an extinct close relative

By Philip Ball  

Philip Ball's "mini brain," stained with fluorescent dye to show the neurons

Plans to grown Neanderthal “mini-brains” take this already science-fictional biomedical technology to new extremes. Mini-brains are a form of organoids—tiny organ-like clusters of cells grown in the laboratory, both for fundamental research in biology and also for possible transplantation to replace damaged or malfunctioning organs. But the new proposal, by eminent palaeontologist Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, would use the technique…

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