UW-Madison researchers print human brain tissue in 3D for the first time

A group of researchers from University of Wisconsin-Madison has created the first 3D printed brain tissue that can grow and function like regular brain tissue.

This achievement opens up new perspectives for studying the brain and developing treatments for neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

In contrast to previous methods that used a vertical layer, the research team uses a horizontal approach. They use soft “bio-ink” and place neurons grown from induced pluripotent stem cells next to each other.

“This may be a very powerful model for understanding how brain cells and brain regions interact in humans,” says Su-Chun Zhang, professor of neuroscience and neuroscience at UW-Madison's Waisman Center. “This could change the way we look at stem cell biology, neuroscience, and the origins of many neurological and psychiatric diseases.”

The imprinted cells form networks within and across layers that resemble the human brain. They interact and communicate through neurotransmitters.

“We printed the cerebral cortex and the striatum, and what we found was very interesting,” Zhang says. “Even though we printed different cells from different parts of the brain, they were able to communicate with each other in a very special and specific way.”

This precision makes it possible to study specific cell interactions, for example in Down syndrome or Alzheimer's. The technology could also be used to test new drugs or study brain development.

“Our lab is very specialized in that we can create any type of neuron at any time. And then we can connect them together at any time and in any way,” says Zhang. can be read as working. We can see very closely how nerve cells communicate with each other under certain conditions because we can print exactly what we want.

“Now our printer is a commercial desktop printer,” says Yan. “Some special developments can be made so certain types of brain tissue can be printed on demand.

University of Wisconsin-Madison's 3D printed brain tissue represents a significant advance in neuroscience research. By combining 3D printing technology and an elaborate cell culture method, it provides a new platform for studying the human brain. This approach opens the door to a deeper understanding of neurodegenerative diseases and accelerates the development of targeted therapies.

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