Jun 10, 2016 | By Alec

It seems like brains have finally appeared on the 3D printing radar. Just two weeks ago, Scottish researchers revealed that they were using 3D printed brain tumor replicas to push cancer research, and now researchers from Aston University are going even further. Through the MESO-BRAIN initiative, they will be using 3D nanoprinted scaffolds to build artificial neural networks, which will be used to study brain development and diseases. To realize this ambitious project, the MESO-BRAIN consortium has received $3.7 million in funding from the European Commission under its Future and Emerging Technology (FET) funding program.

This very ambitious MESO-BRAIN project is led by researchers from Aston University, but includes specialists from Axol Bioscience, Laser Zentrum Hannover, the University of Barcelona, the Institute of Photonic Sciences, and KITE Innovation as well. Together, they are combining a whole range of specialisms and will be involving experts from the fields of stem cell research, photonics, physics, 3D nanoprinting, electrophysiology and molecular biology.

In a nutshell, they are seeking to unearth more information about the complex human neural networks of the brain, which play a vital role in human development, disease progression and neuronal growth. If successful, MESO-BRAIN could greatly increase our understanding of brain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia by emulating diseased brain activity in the lab. What’s more, their models could enable the development of large-scale human cell-based assays that can be used to develop new generations of drugs and reduce the need for animal testing.

According to professor Edik Rafailov, who heads the MESO-BRAIN project, this kind of brain model would not be possible without 3D printing “What we’re proposing to achieve with this project has, until recently, been the stuff of science fiction. Being able to extract and replicate neural networks from the brain through 3D nanoprinting promises to change this,” he said. “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!”

So how will these 3D printed brain models be realized? The cornerstone of the MESO-BRAIN project are a series of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which have been differentiated into neurons. Placed onto a reproducible 3D scaffold (based on a brain cortical module) that provides support, a human neural network is formed that emulates brain activity.

It’s that scaffolding that will be 3D printed, and the researchers are planning to manufacture it using nanoscale laser 3D printing. The resultant structure incorporates nano-electrodes that enable downstream electrophysiological analysis of the neural network’s functioning. The researchers further revealed that they will be using cutting edge light sheet-based, fast volumetric imaging technology to optically analyze the 3D printed network on a cellular level.

The MESO-BRAIN team is convinced that this is the kind of physiologically relevant human model that could invigorate medical development and lead to new insights. Their efforts to 3D print a human brain model are expected to start in September 2016, with research scheduled to take another three years. It is just one of many innovative studies that received funding from the European Commission as part of their Future and Emerging Technology program, which has set aside $90.6 billion for research between 2014 and 2020.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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JMonsalvo wrote at 6/11/2016 7:31:46 PM:

Everybody knows EU funded projects are used by partners to pay trips to each other's cities, have great group dinners, good drinking, and close a few deals behind the scenes...3million wasted in the name of 3DP

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