Studying the brain directly has been a challenge, so models that can replicate various aspects of the brain’s structure can be used to perform experiments. Researchers at Tufts University have developed a technique for building 3D tissue-engineered models of the brain out of collagen and silk-based material. Both white and gray matter can be replicated to be used to study the electrical activity of the brain, the way neurons structure themselves, and how cells interact.
The material is made of a porous sponge-like structure with rat brain neurons surrounded by collagen placed within the pores. The structure showed proper outward growth of neurons and healthy network formation. Perhaps this technology will allow for detailed brain studies at both small and large scales that can’t be performed on animal brains.