We all know just how critical a healthy and functional human brain is to our well-being and livelihood. An essential organ packed with soft nervous tissues, its nature is both complex and fragile, and it’s extremely important that we constantly keep its well-being and safety in mind. 3D printing technology has been playing a key role in the medical industry, and has certainly managed to help doctors and patients deal with matters of the mind. We’ve seen researchers 3D print malignant brain tumor cells to help test new drugs, and 3D printed models of a brain aneurysm to help prepare surgeons for an intensive procedure. The emerging technology has even been used to help researchers discover why the human brain has a folded structure.
Yet again, it looks as if 3D printing technology will be broadening our understanding of the human brain. The MESO-BRAIN consortium, which is a collaborative research effort focused on developing 3D human neural networks that are able to interrogate brain-like activity, has just received €3.3 million in project funding from the European Commission. The MESO-BRAIN consortium is expected to utilize nanoscale 3D laser printing and stem cells in order to emulate accurate brain activity.
By emulating human brain activity with 3D printing technology and stem cells, the MESO-BRAIN consortium hopes to gain a better understanding of how to treat a variety of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and trauma. The initiative plans to use human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and differentiate them into neurons on a defined and reproducible 3D printed scaffolding. The 3D printed structure will be based on a brain cortical module, which is the outer layer of the cerebrum, and will incorporate nanoelectrodes in order to enable the downstream electrophysiological analysis of neural network function.
“Being able to extract and replicate neural networks from the brain through 3D nanoprinting promises to change this,” said professor Edik Rafailov, the head of the MESO-BRAIN project. “The MESO-BRAIN project has the potential to revolutionise the way we are able to understand the onset and development of disease and discover treatments for those with dementia or brain injuries. We cannot wait to get started!”
The initiative also hopes to develop large-scale human cell-based procedures to test the effects that pharmacological and toxicological compounds have on neural network activity. The MESO-BRAIN project will be launched in September, and they plan to conduct their research throughout the next three years.
The MESO-BRAIN initiative is being led by Aston University, and is a collaborative effort between a number of prestigious institutions, including the stem cells company Axol Bioscience, Laser Zentrum Hannover, University of Barcelona, Institute of Photonic Sciences, and KITE Innovation. The project funding is a part of the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technology scheme, which itself is a part of their Horizon 2020 framework, an all-encompassing initiative equipped with nearly €80 billion in funding that is available from 2014 to 2020. Discuss further in the 3D Human Neural Networks forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source: Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News]