MESO-BRAIN stem cell research project to develop 3D nanoprinting techniques to replicate neural networks

Aston University heading up major €3.3m stem cell research project to develop 3D nanoprinting techniques that could replicate brain’s neural networks.

Aston University has launched MESO-BRAIN, a major stem cell research project which it hopes will develop three-dimensional (3D) nanoprinting techniques that can be used to replicate the brain’s neural networks.

The cornerstone of the MESO-BRAIN project will be its use of pluripotent stem cells generated from adult human cells that have been turned into brain cells, which will form neural networks with specific biological architectures. Advanced imaging and detection technologies developed in the project will be used to report on the activity of these networks in real time.

Credit: Ashton University
Such technology would mark a new era of medical and neuroscience research which would see screening and testing conducted using physiologically relevant 3D living human neural networks. In the future, this could potentially be used to generate networks capable of replacing damaged areas in the brains of those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, dementia or other brain trauma.
The MESO-BRAIN initiative, which will span three years, received €3.3million of funding from the European Commission as part of its prestigious Future and Emerging Technology (FET) scheme. Aston University is leading the project, with partners from industry and higher education across Europe: Axol Bioscience Ltd, Laser Zentrum Hannover, The Institute of Photonic Sciences, University of Barcelona and Kite Innovations. This unique partnership brings together stem cell biologists, neuroscientists, photonics experts and physicists.

Head of the MESO-BRAIN project, Professor Edik Rafailov, said: “What we’re hoping to achieve with this project has, until recently, been the stuff of science-fiction.

“If we can use 3D nanoprinting to improve the connection of neurons in an area of the brain which has been damaged, we will be in a position to develop much more effective ways to treat those with dementia or brain injuries.

“To date, attempts to replicate and reproduce cells in this way have only ever delivered 2D tissues or poorly defined 3D tissues that do not resemble structures found within the human body. The new form of printing we are aiming to develop promises to change this. The MESO-BRAIN project could improve hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Dr Eric Hill, Programme Director for MSc Stem cells and Regenerative Medicine at Aston University, commented: “This research carries the potential to enable us to recreate brain structures in a dish. This will allow us to understand how brain networks form during development and provide tools that will help us understand how these networks are affected in diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

Adapted from press release by Ashton University.

Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology and Nanoscience for better health

Nanoscience research involves molecules that are tiny compared to the size of cancer cells and that have the potential to profoundly improve the quality of our health and our lives. Now nine prominent Nano scientists look ahead to what we can expect in the coming decade, and conclude that nanoscience is poised to make important contributions in many areas, including health care, electronics, energy, food and water. The researchers discuss the need to safely implement new nanomaterials and present ideas for doing so. They also call for researchers to communicate their research with the public.

Paul Weiss (UC presidential chair and distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCLA) and Dr. Andre Nel, (Chief of nanomedicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA) who written a paper about Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Journal ACS Nano, think that significant progress is already made. Some important points made by authors in the publication include the following with respect to medicine and health.

  • Nanoparticles can be designed to target infectious disease. Nanomaterials may target the lungs to deliver potent antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs could fight bacterial and viral infection.
  • Nanoparticles may lead to more effective treatments of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as arthritis.
  • The emerging field of immuno-oncology is likely to produce advances that will activate the body’s immune system to attack tumor cells. Important advantages of nanoparticles are that they can bind selectively to receptors over-expressed on tumors and may be delivered to the same cell at a predetermined dose and timing, although significant scientific challenges remain.
Illustration of ultra thin materials.
Credit: Patrick Han, ACS Nano

Authors also feel that Nanotechnology will be a major part of other aspects of day today life including following areas.
  • The microelectronics industry has been manufacturing products with nanoscale structures for decades — a market currently valued at approximately $500 billion annually. The researchers say there is still plenty of room for major improvements, including many opportunities in creative design of devices for data processing and information storage.
  • Nanotechnology is likely to capture, convert and store energy with greater efficiency, and will help to safely produce sustainable and efficient large-scale energy production to meet the increasing worldwide demand for energy.
  • Nanotechnology principles are being used in water desalination and purification, and nanotechnology is poised to make major contributions to supplying clean water globally.
  • Technology is likely to become increasingly widespread, with the proliferation of “nano-enabled smart devices” in such areas as telecommunications, consumer staples and information technology.
  • Nanoscience advances may lead to advances in food safety and reductions in food contamination. Sensor technologies may be designed that exploit changes at the surface of nanostructures so they can detect disease-causing pathogens before they spread. Nanoscale sensor technologies also may lead to improvements in agrochemicals.

The researchers advocate strong federal support for nanoscience, and predict significant progress toward major scientific goals will be achieved by the end of this decade. They also advocate basic research to produce currently unforeseen discoveries.

Citation: Nano Day: Celebrating the Next Decade of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
Authors: Cherie R Kagan, et., al.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.6b06655
Journal: ACS Nano
Adapted from press release by UCLA