Just when you thought you had seen it all, a group of ultra-nerds also known as scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison casually stroll into the spotlight, announcing that they’ve casually whipped up the first 3D-printed brain goo. Who wouldn’t, right? Not just any kind of goo, mind you, instead something that grows and giggles like genuine brain tissue. Sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi flick!
Apparently, this odd, yet still quite remarkable grown-in-a-lab brain tissue will give scientists the inside scoop on how our mysterious mind machine works. Plus, it could prove handy for exploring treatments for those pesky byproducts of getting on in years, an unwitting subscription to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
“It’s like having a mini, manageable brain ecosystem to fiddle around with,” says Su-Chun Zhang, a brainiac in charge of the university’s Waisman Center. If you feel an eerie re-enactment of a certain brain swapping thriller movie coming on, just remember, they’re doing it for science!
Why has this epic achievement never been accomplished before, you ask? Well, according to Zhang and his trusty sidekick, Yan, it was all down to a case of 3D-printing rigidity. Luckily, the clever duo shared their secret for squishable success in the journal of Cell Stem Cell. The only catch? You’ll need a microscope to actually read it.
Their not-so-secret recipe? Scrap the old school stacking method and spread the cells out like fluffy pancakes instead. No need for hard-as-nails tissues that previous neural dabblers concocted. These cells lounge around in a gooey gel, kicking back and growing just like in their organic habitat. Zhang just says, “We let the neurons do their thing, far better than any reunion chatter.”
Imagine this – cells lazing around like sticks, chilling. A brain-tissue picnic, if you will. That’s a neuron party for you.
Yan chimes in with a brief lecture on the importance of cellular oxygen and nutrition supply. Nobody was brave enough to admit they didn’t understand his brainy jargon. Meanwhile, all we could do was marvel at the cells – gossiping, networking, and living their best lives, just like your average human brain. They even invited some support cells over to join the jamboree!
Excited beyond belief, Zhang exclaims, “It’s like they have GPS! It doesn’t matter where they’re from in the brain – they just know how to chat in their personalised language!”
This high-tech printer give these geniuses an absolute, uncontested, god-like dominion over every cell and neuron. They eerily insist it’s not about playing God, but granting “more freedom and control” than their less organized organoid counterparts. Oh, joy!
Zhang uses his well-deserved bragging rights to explain: “We’re like a gourmet neuron kitchen. Pick your flavor, bring out the recipe and voila! An à-la-carte human brain system. We define how our nerve cells will operate.”
But wait, there’s more! The bonus package here is flexibility. What more could you ask for from a DIY brain replica? The tissue can be subjected to repeat performances of many cerebral phenomena like the cellular discourse in Down syndrome, or analyzing how Alzheimer’s wreaks havoc on healthy tissues. This model brain is open to witnessing every spectacle of brain growth imaginable…just, you know, minus the actual person it’s usually attached to.
“The brain is a well-orchestrated opera. We need to hear the whole symphony, not just one note,” Zhang says. “The cherry on top? This model could be the star guest in any brainiac gathering. It could shed light on a slew of disorders – molecular, developmental, or degenerative. The brainy sky’s the limit.”
The surprising fact is that, creating this wonder doesn’t ask for some top-secret laboratory gear. A typical brain-studying researcher would already have the impromptu brain assembling set! We can expect to see a bucketload of cool brain printouts soon, then.
But it doesn’t stop there. No, Yan and Zhang are eying even more futuristic goals. Oh yes, they’re planning to optimize their bio-ink and develop a printer that can cultivate zany, specialized cells just the way they want them. I mean, who wouldn’t want their own private brain tissue blobs, right?
“At the moment, our printer is somewhat generic. But just wait until we bring in our advanced model. It’s going to blow your brain-lovin’ minds!” says Yan.
This mind-boggling venture, in part, was endorsed by such esteemed institutions as NIH-NINDS, NICHD, the National Medical Research Council of Singapore, Ministry of Education of Singapore, Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s, the Bleser Family Foundation, and the Busta Foundation.
Researchers 3D-print functional human brain tissue