Researchers at the University of Oxford have developed a groundbreaking technique for 3D printing human stem cells to create an engineered tissue that mimics the structure of the cerebral cortex.
How they did it: Using human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) — which have the potential to generate most human cell types —
the researchers fabricated
a two-layered brain tissue. When implanted into mouse brain slices, these 3D-printed tissues managed to demonstrate structural and functional integration.
Why this matters: The new technique, which the researchers call “droplet printing,” offers hope in tailored repairs for brain injuries, which often result in severe damage to the cerebral cortex. Difficulties in cognitive, motor and communication skills occur due to such damages.
“This advance marks a significant step towards the fabrication of materials with the full structure and function of natural brain tissues,” said lead author Dr. Yongcheng Jin of Oxford’s Department of Chemistry. “The work will provide a unique opportunity to explore the workings of the human cortex and, in the long term, it will offer hope to individuals who sustain brain injuries.”
What’s next: The researchers plan to enhance the technique to create more complex, multi-layered cerebral cortex tissues that more closely resemble the brain’s architecture. Beyond repairing brain injuries, such engineered tissues may prove beneficial in drug evaluation, cognitive studies and brain development research.