Every year successful tests of therapeutics on animal models fail to translate into positive results in human clinical trials due to largely unknown but inherent differences in the brain. Significant value has therefore been placed on the creation of ‘bench-top’ brain tissue in order to fully understand brain functioning and to maximize the effectiveness of drug testing.
The recent development of a 3D-printed layered structure that incorporates neural cells and closely mimics the structure of human brain tissue by a team of researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (NSW, Australia) represents a step closer to the realization of bench-top brain tissue. The findings were published in the journal Biomaterials.
Within the study, the research team arranged cells to form neuronal networks in a six-layered structure using a custom developed bioink that contained naturally occurring carbohydrate materials. These carbohydrate materials are able to allow accurate cell dispersion throughout the structure, while also providing a level of protection to the cells that is often rare in artificial tissues.
The custom bioink was then optimized for 3D printing and developed for use in a standard cell culturing facility, avoiding the need for expensive bioprinting equipment. The process resulted in a ‘brain-like’ layered structure with accurate cell placement and in which cells remained in their designated layer.
“We are still a long way from printing a brain but the ability to arrange cells so as they form neuronal networks is a significant step forward,” explained lead author Gordon Wallace (ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science).
“This study highlights the importance of integrating advances in 3D printing, with those in materials science, to realize a biological outcome [and] paves the way for the use of more sophisticated printers to create structures with much finer resolution ” concluded Wallace.