3D Printing is Now Helping Brain Research

Brain Research - 3D Printing

The human brain and much of its workings remain a tremendous mystery in the world of medical science and while researchers believe that it comprises of a folded structure, there is still no conclusive explanation as to why this is so. However, the ethics involved with performing experiments on the brain itself make it almost impossible to conduct the necessary research because of the fact that live human models would have to be used to get accurate results.

Medical 3D Printing to the Rescue

A research team conducted experiments that involved the use of a 3D printing technique which mimicked the growth and development of the brain. The team believes that it has proven that the folded structure is merely a physical process and not a biological issue, and results were based on a little-known model of brain development that was created more than 40 years ago. Results of the experiments that were conducted by the team were later published in Nature Physics as a paper that was called “On the Growth and Form of Cortical Convolutions.”

Printing a Brain

The research team engaged in a little medical 3D printing to create a model of a fetal brain and used MRI data in conjunction with layers of soft gel materials. Each of the gel layers was designed to swell and expand at different rates after being placed in a specialized liquid solvent. This 3D model went on to develop a series of complex folds on its surface in the same manner as those observed in actual human brain development. It has been suggested that this research could lead to more accurate diagnosis and treatment methods for a range of neurological disorders that have been linked to brain malformation, cortex thickness and the overall migration of a person’s brain cells.

A Useful Template for Future Brain-Related Studies

Although this lifelike simulation of the development of the brain surface will be able to provide a useful template for any future studies, it is crucial to remember that the overall process of recreating the actual growth process of a real brain is extremely challenging. At present, it is safe to say that the 3D printed model is limited in that it can only predict the behavior of basic brain structures at the beginning of the folding process. This has been confirmed by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering at Stanford University in California. However, as new knowledge and information comes to light, this could change at some point in the future.

This 3D medical printing experiment could be a potential new starting point for more lines of research, all of which could help neuroscientists and doctors develop new understanding of the human brain and how it works. In turn, this could lead to a vast array of new medical advancements, all of which could help scientists trace single brain functions to its folding surface. This could provide new hope for schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer’s sufferers.