Mar 4, 2018 | By Tess

Scientists from the University of Manchester are exploring the use of 3D bioprinting to aid in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 3D bioprinting technology could be used to produce models and structures that closely mimic the neurovascular unit (NVU).

Found in the brain, the NVU is a complex system made up of vascular and neural parts. Communication between these two components is an important part of maintaining a healthy brain, and the NVU plays a key role in providing the brain with nutrients and oxygen. It also acts as a sort of removal system for harmful toxic compounds, ensuring the brain stays healthy and functioning.

When the NVU isn’t running smoothly it can cause certain neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and stroke.

To study what happens during an NVU dysfunction and to better understand how to treat neurodegenerative conditions, the University of Manchester researchers are developing 3D bioprinted NVU models that mimic the interactions between cells and the different parts of the NVU.

Presently, scientists are conducting research using animal models, though the ability to study and work with an NVU model made of human cells would be advantageous. Thanks to bioprinting technologies and advances in tissue engineering, however, this possibility is becoming more and more feasible.

Bioprinting techniques are capable of depositing hydrogel materials embedded with different cell types into a given structure. “For example, endothelial cells can be printed in patterns that mimic the microvasculature of the vascular unit, while neurons and glia can be deposited as interconnected parts to fabricate the neural component,” explains Cosimo Ligorio, a contributor to medicalphysicsweb. “Moreover, these two components can be interfaced by simply printing them as two consecutive layers to mimic the neuro-vascular interactions.”

These 3D bioprinted models can be finely tuned to match the mechanical and biochemical composition of real NVU by adjusting and tweaking the bioink materials used. These bioinks can vary in stiffness, porosity, chemistry compositions, and more. All these variations can be determined “by printing natural or synthetic materials with inherent characteristics.”

Ultimately, the development of 3D bioprinted NVU models could enable researchers to study neurodegenerative diseases on a larger scale and in more depth, and could be a crucial step in finding treatments.

The study by the University of Manchester team was recently published in the journal Trends in Biotechnology. Researchers Geoffrey Potjewyd and Sam Moxon authored the paper.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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