US Bioengineers have created three-dimensional brain-like tissue that functions like and has structural features similar to tissue in the rat brain and that can be kept alive in the lab for more than two months.
As a first demonstration of its potential, researchers used the brain-like tissue to study chemical and electrical changes that occur immediately following traumatic brain injury and, in a separate experiment, changes that occur in response to a drug.
The tissue could provide a superior model for studying normal brain function as well as injury and disease, and could assist in the development of new treatments for brain dysfunction.
The brain-like tissue was developed at the Tissue Engineering Resource Center at Tufts University, Boston, which is funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) to establish innovative biomaterials and tissue engineering models.
David Kaplan, Ph.D., Stern Family Professor of Engineering at Tufts University is director of the center and led the research efforts to develop the tissue.
Recently, tissue engineers have attempted to grow neurons in 3D gel environments, where they can freely establish connections in all directions.
“This work is an exceptional feat,” said Rosemarie Hunziker, Ph.D., program director of Tissue Engineering at NIBIB. “It combines a deep understand of brain physiology with a large and growing suite of bioengineering tools to create an environment that is both necessary and sufficient to mimic brain function.”
Kaplan emphasized the importance of the brain-like tissue’s longevity for studying other brain disorders. “The fact that we can maintain this tissue for months in the lab means we can start to look at neurological diseases in ways that you can’t otherwise because you need long timeframes to study some of the key brain diseases,” he said.