Researchers at Oxford University have developed a promising 3D printing technique that could potentially be used to repair brain injuries.


A groundbreaking discovery out of the University of Oxford could revolutionize the way we treat brain injuries. Researchers at the university have developed a technique that allows them to 3D print neural cells to mimic the architecture of the cerebral cortex. This breakthrough has the potential to provide tailored repairs for individuals with brain injuries caused by trauma, stroke, or brain tumor surgery.

Brain injuries often result in significant damage to the cerebral cortex, which can lead to difficulties in cognition, movement, and communication. Currently, there are no effective treatments for severe brain injuries, which greatly impacts the quality of life for those affected. However, tissue regenerative therapies using stem cell implants derived from a patient’s own cells offer hope for the future.

One of the challenges in these regenerative therapies is ensuring that the implanted stem cells mimic the architecture of the brain. In this study, the researchers were able to fabricate a two-layered brain tissue using 3D printed human neural stem cells. When implanted into mouse brain slices, the cells integrated structurally and functionally with the host tissue.

Dr. Yongcheng Jin, the lead author of the study, stated, “This advance marks a significant step towards the fabrication of materials with the full structure and function of natural brain tissues. 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.”

The brain tissue was made using human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), which have the ability to produce various cell types found in human tissues. The advantage of using hiPSCs for tissue repair is that they can be easily derived from a patient’s own cells, reducing the risk of an immune response. The researchers differentiated the hiPSCs into neural progenitor cells for the two different layers of the cerebral cortex using specific growth factors and chemicals.

The cells were then suspended in a solution to generate two “bioinks,” which were 3D printed to create a two-layered structure. In culture, the printed tissues maintained their layered cellular architecture for weeks. When implanted into mouse brain slices, they integrated well with the host tissue, showing the migration of neurons and the projection of neural processes. The implanted cells also demonstrated signaling activity, indicating functional integration with the host cells.

The next step for the researchers is to further improve the droplet printing technique to create more complex multi-layered cerebral cortex tissues that more accurately mimic the architecture of the human brain. In addition to their potential for repairing brain injuries, these engineered tissues could also be used for drug evaluation, studying brain development, and enhancing our understanding of cognition.

This new breakthrough builds on the University of Oxford’s decade-long expertise in 3D printing technologies for synthetic tissues and cultured cells. Dr. Linna Zhou, one of the senior authors of the study, explained, “Our droplet printing technique provides a means to engineer living 3D tissues with desired architectures, which brings us closer to the creation of personalized implantation treatments for brain injury.”

Associate Professor Francis Szele, another senior author of the study, added, “The use of living brain slices creates a powerful platform for interrogating the utility of 3D printing in brain repair. It is a natural bridge between studying 3D printed cortical column development in vitro and their integration into brains in animals.”

The potential of this research is promising, and it has the potential to revolutionize how we approach brain injuries. With further advancements in 3D printing techniques, personalized implantation treatments for brain injuries may soon become a reality, providing hope for millions of people affected by traumatic brain injuries each year.

The human brain is a marvel of evolution, a complex organ that has been the subject of study and fascination for centuries. And now, researchers at the University of Oxford have made a breakthrough in understanding and recreating the intricacies of its development.

In a groundbreaking study published in Nature Communications, scientists from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics, and the Department of Chemistry at Oxford University describe how they used 3D printing technology to create functional units of the cerebral cortex. This is a significant achievement, as the cerebral cortex is responsible for higher cognitive functions such as memory, attention, perception, and language.

The researchers used human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to create these 3D-printed units. iPSCs are cells that can be derived from adult cells and reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells, which have the ability to differentiate into different types of cells in the body. By manipulating the fate and arrangement of these iPSCs, the researchers were able to recreate the basic functional units of the cerebral cortex.

The team acknowledges that recreating the entire cellular progression of brain development in the laboratory is a daunting task. However, their study demonstrates substantial progress in controlling the fate and arrangement of iPSCs. This achievement opens up exciting possibilities for future research on brain development and could potentially lead to new treatments for neurological disorders and injuries.

What makes this study even more remarkable is the collaborative effort that went into it. The researchers from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics worked closely with their counterparts from the Department of Chemistry to achieve this feat. This multidisciplinary approach, fostered by Oxford’s Martin School, is a testament to the power of collaboration in scientific research.

Professor Hagan Bayley, the senior author from the Department of Chemistry, highlights the importance of this collaboration, saying that this futuristic endeavor could only have been achieved through highly multidisciplinary interactions. He also emphasizes the role of the Oxford Martin School in encouraging such interactions.

This study was supported by a European Research Council Advanced Grant and the Oxford Martin School Program on 3D Printing for Brain Repair. The researchers hope that their findings will pave the way for further advancements in the field of brain research and inspire new approaches to brain repair and regeneration.

Oxford University has long been recognized as a leader in research and innovation, and this groundbreaking study is further evidence of its commitment to pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge. With its world-class researchers and state-of-the-art facilities, Oxford continues to make significant contributions to various fields, improving the lives of millions and solving real-world problems.

The University of Oxford’s achievements extend beyond research and innovation. It is renowned for its exceptional educational offerings and its ability to attract the brightest minds from around the world. Through partnerships and collaborations, Oxford creates a vibrant and diverse research community that fosters imaginative and inventive insights.

Oxford University is also dedicated to translating its research into tangible solutions through its research commercialization arm, Oxford University Innovation. It is the highest university patent filer in the UK and has created over 300 new companies since 1988. This entrepreneurial spirit not only drives economic prosperity but also creates opportunities for societal impact.

In conclusion, the integration of 3D-printed cerebral cortical tissue into an ex vivo lesioned brain slice is a significant achievement in the field of brain research. The collaborative effort and multidisciplinary approach behind this study highlight the importance of collaboration in pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge. This breakthrough opens up new possibilities for further research on brain development and provides hope for future advancements in brain repair and regeneration.

Original source


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