Human "mini-brains" might sound like something from a science fiction movie.
But Tasmanian researchers are hoping the lab-grown structures could lead to breakthroughs in two of the world's biggest health threats.
And it's all thanks to one Launceston family.
Scientists from the University of Tasmania's Wicking Dementia Research Centre are creating miniature brains about the size of a grain of rice to improve the understanding of dementia and traumatic brain injury.
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The project has been made possible thanks to a generous donation from the Merridew Foundation.
The charity was established by Launceston's George Merridew, his wife Sarah and their two daughters Nancy and Alison, so they could support projects they believed in.
It was also inspired by Dr Merridew's brother - an accomplished journalist who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 55.
Acknowledging the sad reality that many families impacted by dementia experience, Dr Merridew said the donation was an acknowledgement of his brother and for the quality research carried out by the Wicking Institute.
"My brother lived with dementia and died with it," he said. "He was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease at the age off 55.
"He gradually got worse and died after 10 years of that as a frail old man.
"It was all very sad - especially given his intellectual capability and his gradual decline. It was terrible."
The foundation will donate $75,000 over three years to the research, where scientists change skin cells - derived from tissue donated by Tasmanians - into pluripotent stem cells and then into nerve cells.
These cells are then grown into organoids, also known as mini-brains.
The tiny three-dimensional structures closely resemble the make-up of the human brain, paving the way for improved investigations into causes and treatment.
The research is being led by Associate Professor Tony Cook, who said support for medical research was absolutely critical.
"The great thing about this philanthropic support from the Merridew Foundation is that we have been able to kick start something that we probably wouldn't have been able to do," he said.
"We are already seeing good advances in other diseases using organoids, where new potential therapeutics have been identified.
"While we are not quite at the stage of that with dementia or traumatic brain injury, I think there is enough evidence to give us a good level of optimism that it will be the case in the longer term."
Dr Merridew and Sarah are both University of Tasmania alumni, graduating from Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Economics respectively.
They believe their education gave them a great impetus in life.
"Sarah, myself and our daughters have all had a good education ... and a good start to our professional lives," Dr Merridew said.
"We think it's appropriate to reciprocate in some directions - in this case with funding.
"Often research projects don't end up being useful to their original purpose, but they always add extra knowledge of some kind and extra expertise for the people doing it.
"It's clear to us that if we're to make a donation to basic science research in dementia, this is a good way to do it. It's a privilege for us to be apart of it."