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.
According to them, it could help scientists find new
treatments for brain injuries and diseases and improve knowledge about normal
In early experiments with the tissue, researchers used it to
examine chemical and electrical changes that occur immediately after brain
injury and the changes that occur in response to a drug.
"This work is an exceptional feat. 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," said Rosemarie Hunziker, program director of Tissue
Engineering at The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering
(NIBIB) in the United States.
According to project leader David Kaplan, a professor of
engineering at Tufts and director of the Tissue Engineering Resource Center,
this tissue offers advantages over using live animals to study brain injury.
In live animals, researchers are not able to start assessing
the effects of a brain injury immediately after it occurs. That's because the
animal's brain has to be dissected and prepared for experiments.
"With the new 3-D brain-like tissue, you can essentially
track the tissue response to traumatic brain injury in real time. Most
importantly, you can also start to track repair and what happens over longer
periods of time," Kaplan said.
The longevity of the tissue also makes it worthy for
studying brain diseases and disorders.
The fact that we can maintain this tissue for months in the
lab means we can begin 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, Kaplan added.
At present, he and his colleagues are now trying to find
ways to make the tissue model even more brain-like. The tissue was developed at
Tuft University's Tissue Engineering Resource Center
, which is funded by
the U.S. National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of