It is very clear that mothers' diet during pregnancy has
long-term effects on fetal development. Micronutrients and minerals play a key role during human fetal development. Until today, the study of nutrients in brains was restricted to
postmortem or non-human tissue.
A study published in PeerJ
this week describes the composition and distribution of some elements in human minibrains created in the lab. Human brain organoids - tiny
tridimensional structures created from human stem cells in vitro -
helped to understand the dynamics of nutrients during neurodevelopment.
‘Using synchrotron radiation, a sort of X-ray, researchers studied the composition and distribution of some elements in human minibrains. It has helped to understand the dynamics of nutrients during neurodevelopment.’
Researchers analyzed human brain organoids, also known as
minibrains, by synchrotron radiation, a sort of X-ray that allows the
identification of the atomic composition of micronutrients. This
technique consists of exciting tissue samples in order to quantify the
unique photon signature of each atom. In doing so, they described how
phosphorus, sulfur, potassium, calcium, iron and zinc are distributed
during brain formation.
Simone Cardoso, Associate Professor at the Institute of Physics
at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, highlights the
interdisciplinary nature of the study, which involved biologists and
physicists. "This allows us to gather a wide range of scientific
expertise to plan and perform the experiments".
The minibrains were up to 45-days old. The authors described the
distribution of nutrients in two different stages of development: an
initial one, of intense cellular proliferation (day 30); and at a second
time point, when cells start to become neurons and organize themselves
into layers (day 45).
The results show that the concentration and distribution of
micronutrients are related to the stage of development and similar to
previous data obtained from postmortem brain samples.
The observed nutrients are
essential for the appropriate formation of the brain. The lack of some
of them during prenatal development is also related to memory deficits
and psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.
"This study reinforces
how important minibrains can be as a model to investigate several
aspects of brain development", says Stevens Rehen, the principal
investigator of the study and a researcher working at the D' Or
Institute for Research and Education (IDOR) and at the Institute of
Biomedical Sciences at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.