Feb 13, 2018 | By Benedict

Researchers at Genoa’s Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Italy have used nanoscale 3D printing to develop a hybrid nanotech device that could help develop treatments for brain diseases and tumors. The 3D printed device mimics the blood-brain barrier.

The blood-brain barrier, commonly shortened to just “BBB,” might sound like a death metal band, but it’s actually a very useful membrane found in all of our heads. Formed by brain endothelial cells, the semipermeable barrier allows the passage of things like water and some gases, but blocks certain neurotoxins and other substances.

Our BBBs are naturally occurring, and our central nervous system wouldn't work properly without them, but researchers at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Italy recently 3D printed a kind of artificial BBB that could be used to develop brain disease therapies.

Their hybrid nanotech device, fabricated using a Nanoscribe nanoscale 3D printer, contains a combination of artificial and biological components, and functions as a microfluidic device. It was made using a combination of mechanical and natural techniques.

The microfabrication process of two-photon lithography was used, courtesy of the Nanoscribe machine, to create several parts of the BBB model. During this two-photon lithography process, a laser scans through a liquid photopolymer and solidifies the material layer by layer, producing a kind of SLA or DLP-type 3D print but on a submicron scale.

A 3D printed nanotech device mimics the human blood-brain barrier

(Image: Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia)

This 3D printing process enabled the researchers to build an accurate, 1:1 scale model of the BBB from the photopolymer resin. Its microfluidic system, made up of 50 parallel cylindrical channels, mimics brain microcapillaries, with each tubular structure having a diameter of just 10 μm and pores of a tiny 1 μm diameter.

When the photopolymer was 3D printed, endothelial cells were cultivated around the porous microcapillary system, which then autonomously built up a biological barrier. The resulting device is a kind of biohybrid system that closely resembles a natural BBB.

The amazing device could be used to better understand how drugs can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and target the central nervous system, and will be used to develop new therapeutic strategies for brain cancer, Alzheimers, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions.

The research has been documented in a paper, “A 3D Real-Scale, Biomimetic, and Biohybrid Model of the Blood-Brain Barrier Fabricated through Two-Photon Lithography,” which has been published in Small. It was coordinated by Gianni Ciofani, researcher at IIT in Pontedera (Pisa) and Professor at Politecnico di Torino, as part of the SLaMM research project.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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