New York, Dec 11 (IANS) A team of US researchers has successfully used stem cells to engineer living biohybrid nerve tissue to develop 3D models of neural networks.
These models will be able to help understand how abnormalities form, likee what gives rise to diseases such as Alzheimer's, said the team from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"Being able to form 3-dimensional tissue consisting of neurons can give us the ability to develop tissue models for drug screening or processing units for biological computers", said study first author Gelson Pagan-Diaz-Diaz.
Pagan-Diaz is a graduate student in Professor Rashid Bashir's group in the Department of Bioengineering at the Grainger College of Engineering.
These 3D tissues could be used to study complex behaviours that happen in the brain and how these tissues react with new drugs being developed. It could also mean less reliant on animals to test these drugs in the future.
"If we can control how these neurons communicate with each other, if we can train them using optogenetics, if we can programme them, then we can potentially use to perform engineering functions," Bashir said.
"In the future, our hope is that by being able to design these neural tissue, we can begin to realize biological processing units and biological computers, similar to the brain."
In this study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team developed neural tissue mimics that can form different shapes.
The team used hydrogels and fibrin to make millimeter to centimeter scale structures that doesn't have rigid scaffolds and can be molded into a number of desired shapes.
"It's a bundle of hundreds to thousands of microns of cells that contains a lot of populations with a genetic makeup similar to in vivo tissues," Pagan-Diaz explained.
"Once we show that the tissue engineered outside the body is similar to the tissue in the body, then we can then fabricate them over and over again", he added.