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3D Bioprinting Models to Better Understand and Treat Neurodegenerative Diseases

Picture of Hanna Watkin
by Hanna Watkin
Mar 5, 2018

Scientists from Manchester, UK are using 3D bioprinting to investigate and better understand the brain’s neurovascular unit (NVU) which will hopefully lead to improved treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

Currently, there are no cures for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, Parkinson’s and stroke. However, scientists from the University of Manchester, UK are using 3D bioprinting to help improve treatments.

So far, researchers know that the onset of neurodegenerative diseases is related to the dysfunction of the neurovascular unit (NVU). The NVU is composed of a vascular and a neural component. It’s vital that these two components can communicate properly. The NVU provides the brain with nutrients and oxygen while also removing harmful toxic compounds.

Therefore, the Mancunian scientists are using 3D models to mimic the NVU and investigate it more closely. To do this, they’re taking advantage of advances in 3D biomaterials such as hydrogels.

Along with the use of novel biomaterials and bio-inks, the researchers are using the 3D bioprinting method to create complex models and gain insight.

3D Bioprinting to Investigate the NVU

The 3D bioprinted models mimic interactions between the neural, vascular and extracellular matrix (ECM) which is combined by the NVU.

Currently, researchers already use animal models for research. However, the scientists Geoffrey Potjewyd and Sam Moxon (see above) at Manchester University explain that research greatly needs human cell-based models.

Recent progress in tissue engineering means it’s possible to create complex structures consisting of different cell types and materials. As a result, the researchers found that 3D bioprinting is extremely promising.

They can also choose whether to use bio-ink and 3D print directly to create a structure or to use molds. With bio-ink, it’s possible to tweak the materials so the resulting models are biochemically and mechanically similar to the real NVU.

The hope is that by understanding the NVU better, researchers will be able to find better treatments for the resulting neurodegenerative diseases. They also add that they can produce a large number of 3D bioprints easily which makes the technology a valid research tool and could even move the field a step forward.

You can find out more by reading the study by the University of Manchester team. It was published in the journal Trends in Biotechnology.

Source: Medical Physics Web

License: The text of "3D Bioprinting Models to Better Understand and Treat Neurodegenerative Diseases" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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