Revolutionary 3D printed brain tissue mimics human function

Revolutionary 3D printed brain tissue mimics human function

summary: Researchers have developed the world’s first 3D printed brain tissue that grows and behaves similarly to normal brain tissue, representing a major leap forward in research into neurological disorders and neurodevelopment.

This new 3D printing technology uses a horizontal layering method and a softer bioink, allowing neurons to communicate and form networks similar to human brain structures.

The ability to precisely control cell types and arrangements provides unparalleled opportunities to study brain functions and disorders in a controlled environment, providing new ways to test drugs and understand brain development and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Key facts:

  1. 3D printed brain tissue can form networks and communicate through neurotransmitters, similar to the interactions of the human brain.
  2. This new printing method allows precise control of cell types and arrangements, going beyond the capabilities of traditional brain organoids.
  3. This technology is accessible in many laboratories, does not require special equipment or culture methods, and can significantly impact the study of various neurological conditions and treatments.

source: University of Wisconsin

A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists has developed the first 3D-printed brain tissue that can grow and function like typical brain tissue.

It’s a breakthrough that has important implications for scientists who study the brain and are working on treatments for a wide range of neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

“This could be a very powerful model to help us understand how brain cells and parts of the brain communicate in humans,” says Su-Chun Chang, a professor of neurobiology and neurobiology at the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This indicates the brain.
“Our tissues remain relatively thin, and this makes it easier for neurons to get enough oxygen and nutrients from the growth media,” Yan says. Credit: Neuroscience News

“It could change the way we look at stem cell biology, neurobiology, and the pathogenesis of many neurological and psychiatric disorders.”

Printing methods have limited the success of previous attempts to print brain tissue, according to Zhang and Yuanwei Yan, a scientist in Zhang’s lab. The group behind the new 3D printing process described their method today in the journal Stem cell.

Instead of using the traditional 3D printing method of stacking layers vertically, the researchers moved horizontally. They placed the brain cells, which are neurons grown from induced pluripotent stem cells, in a “bioink” gel that was softer than previous attempts.

“The tissue still has enough structure to hold together, but is soft enough to allow neurons to grow into each other and start talking to each other,” Zhang says.

The cells are placed next to each other like pencils placed next to each other on a table top.

“Our tissues remain relatively thin, and this makes it easier for neurons to get enough oxygen and nutrients from the growth media,” Yan says.

The results speak for themselves, meaning the cells can talk to each other. The printed cells reach across the medium to form connections within each printed layer as well as across layers, forming networks similar to human brains.

Neurons communicate, send signals, interact with each other through neurotransmitters, and even form appropriate networks with the supporting cells that have been added to the printed tissue.

“We printed the cerebral cortex and the striatum, and what we found was absolutely amazing,” Zhang says. “Even when we printed different cells belonging to different parts of the brain, they were still able to talk to each other in a very special and specific way.”

Printing technology provides precision — control over cell types and arrangement — not found in brain organoids, the miniature organs used to study brains. Organisms grow with less regulation and control.

“Our lab is very special in that we are able to produce almost any type of neuron at any time. Then we can put them together at almost any time and in any way we like,” says Zhang.

“Because we can print tissue by design, we can have a specific system to look at how our human brain network works. We can look very specifically at how neurons communicate with each other under certain conditions because we can print exactly what we want.

This privacy provides flexibility. Printed brain tissue could be used to study signaling between cells in Down syndrome, interactions between healthy tissue and neighboring tissue affected by Alzheimer’s disease, test new drug candidates, or even monitor brain development.

“In the past, we often looked at one thing at a time, which meant we often missed some important components. Our brain works in networks. We want to print brain tissue this way because cells don’t work on their own. They talk to each other,” says Zhang. : “This is the way our brain works and they need to be studied together in this way to truly understand it.”

“Our brain tissue can be used to study almost every major aspect of what many people at the Weizmann Center are working on. It can be used to look at the molecular mechanisms underlying brain growth, human development, developmental disabilities, neurodegenerative disorders, and more.”

The new printing technology should also be accessible to many laboratories. It does not require special bioprinting equipment or culture methods to maintain tissue health, and can be studied in depth using microscopes, standard imaging techniques, and electrodes that are already common in the field.

The researchers want to explore the potential of the specialty, while continuing to improve their bioink and improve their equipment to allow specific directions of cells within their printed tissues.

“Right now, our printer is a commercial tabletop printer,” Yan says. “We can make some specialized improvements to help us print certain types of brain tissue on demand.”

Financing: This study was supported in part by NIH-NINDS (NS096282, NS076352, NS086604), NICHD (HD106197, HD090256), National Medical Research Council of Singapore (MOH-000212, MOH-000207), Ministry of Education of Singapore (MOE2018-) T2 -2-103), Aligning Science with Parkinson’s Disease (ASAP-000301), the Placer Family Foundation, and the Busta Foundation.

About neurotechnology research news

author: Emily Locklear
source: University of Wisconsin
communication: Emily Locklear – University of Wisconsin
picture: Image credited to Neuroscience News

Original search: Open access.
“3D bioprinting of human neural tissue with functional connectivity” by Su-Chun Zhang et al. Stem cell

a summary

3D bioprinting of human neural tissue with functional connectivity


  • Functional human neural tissue assembled via 3D bioprinting
  • Neural circuits that form between specific neuronal subtypes
  • Functional connections are established between the attacked cortical tissues
  • Printed tissues for modeling neural network vulnerability


Exploring how human neural networks function is hampered by the lack of reliable human neural tissue amenable to dynamic functional assessment of neural circuits. We have developed a 3D bioprinting platform to assemble tissues with specific types of human neurons in the desired dimension using a commercial bioprinter.

Imprinted neuronal progenitors differentiate into neurons and form functional neural circuits within and between tissue layers with specificity within weeks, as evidenced by cortical projection to the striatum, spontaneous synaptic currents, and synaptic response to neuronal excitation.

Imprinted astrocyte progenitors develop into mature astrocytes with elaborate processes and form functional neuronal astrocyte networks, which are indicated by calcium influx and glutamate uptake in response to neuronal excitation under physiological and pathological conditions.

These engineered human neural tissues are likely to be useful for understanding the wiring of human neural networks, modeling disease processes, and serving as platforms for drug testing.

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