Borrowing from microfabrication techniques used in the semiconductor industry, MIT and Harvard Medical School (HMS) engineers have developed a simple, inexpensive way to create three-dimensional brain tissues in a lab dish, using brain cells taken from the primary cortex of rats.
The new technique yields tissue constructs that closely mimic the cellular composition of those in the living brain, allowing scientists to study how neurons form 3D connections and to predict how cells from individual patients might respond to different drugs.
The work also paves the way for developing bioengineered implants to replace damaged tissue for organ systems, according to the researchers.
“We think that by bringing this kind of control and manipulation into neurobiology, we can investigate many different directions,” says Utkan Demirci, an assistant professor in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST).
Demirci and Ed Boyden, associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at MIT’s Media Lab and McGovern Institute, are senior authors of a paper describing the new technique.