Little is understood about the human brain and this is the reason why neuroscientists rely heavily on the in vitro brain tissue samples from animals to understand the human brain. However, it is important to take note that animal brain tissues are entirely different from ours and if we do drug testing on the former, the effects could be catastrophic for us. Unfortunately, the brain has more than 86 billion nerve cells thus leaving a large gray area for scientists.
Recently, researchers from the ARC Center of Excellence for Electromaterials Science in Australia created the first ever 3D bioprinted structure that uses brain (neural) cells in order to mimic the structure of the brain tissues. This new breakthrough makes it very easy for scientists to study the brain and also treat different conditions like Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.
To create the tissues, the researchers developed a bio-ink that contains immature cortical neurons that are encapsulated by a carbohydrate-based material made from gellan gum polymer hydrogel. This base material allows cell dispersion but it also provides protection to the neural cells. The material is delivered using a handheld 3D printer. A total of six layers were created to mimic the brain tissues.
Professor Gordon Wallace, the AES Director, explained that perfecting the technology still has a long way to go but the team is hopeful that the research will pave a way for the use of highly sophisticated printers in the future in order to create structures with better resolution to help treat different diseases.