Science and Tech


Scientists have found a way to 3D-print brain tissue for research

The 3D-printed brain tissue can be used for multiple research purposes, such as evaluating new drug candidates.
Calcium response of astrocytes within printed human brain tissue
Posted at 6:57 PM, Mar 12, 2024

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed the first 3D-printed brain tissue that can function like regular brain tissue.

Why is this important?

It has implications for researchers studying the brain in different ways.

“We think this work could help people to understand neuropsychiatric diseases, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson's, compared to the other models,” said Yuanwei Yan, a scientist in the Zhang Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Printing methods have previously had limited success in printing brain tissue.

This is how it works: The researchers horizontally situated brain cells in a “bio-ink” gel. The brain cells were made from neurons grown from stem cells. The scientists said the horizontal placement allows the structure to hold while still allowing the neurons to grow, talk to each other, and send signals like human brains do.

“Our cells are a lot better compared to an organoid. They mature a lot faster and the function is way better,” Yan said. Brain organoids, which are structures derived from stem cells, are used to study brains.

Now with 3D printing, this method allows scientists to have more flexibility in their studies. And it uses materials and machines available in many labs. 

“I think this will be the future direction for brain tissue regeneration,” Yan said.

The 3D-printed brain tissue can be used to study things like watching the brain grow, testing new drug candidates, and watching interactions between health tissue and tissue affected by Alzheimer’s.

When asked about any concerns he wanted to address, Yan said this new development will not be used to create a full brain.

“We only generate a piece of brain tissue,” he said.