PI: Kaplan, David L. Proposal Number: 1547806
The coordinated function in the brain of billions of neurons in dense and entangled networks can be seen as the epicenter of our unique higher consciousness, as well as of our vulnerability to debilitating diseases, such as schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer's. The investigators propose a unique approach of sound waves and silk protein biomaterials, to recreate the complex three-dimensional brain network structures in a small dish, and use them to investigate their response to a laboratory model of brain concussion damage. With these studies, the investigators aspire to demonstrate how these constructs may help scientists better understand the workings of the brain in healthy and diseased states.
The complexity of the brain poses a large roadblock for scientists to examine molecular, cellular and circuit level behavior of brain physiology. Novel approaches and technologies are needed that complement and advance the existing in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro approaches. The goal of the proposed research is to develop a new flexible bioprinting platform for the in vitro fabrication of 3-dimensional (3D) neural tissue constructs that faithfully mimic the biological complexity, development, architecture and function of 3D circuits present in the brain. The key innovations include the strategy of acoustic biopatterning and silk protein scaffolds for encapsulating neurons in long-lived, 3D multilayered architectures. To prototype and validate the construct, the investigators propose in the first aim to create 6-layer cortical circuits built of primary neurons. In the second aim, they will examine the physiology of the 3D circuit tissues using a comprehensive neuro-technological tool-box. Electrophysiology, fluorescence imaging, genomics and proteomics approaches will be employed to evaluate functional and structural milestones of the developing in vitro 3-D neural circuits, including a brain damage disease model. This radically different approach for investigating brain physiology and pathophysiology has the potential to provide new tools for neuroscience, the utility of which extends to other fields because of the general applicability of the proposed advanced biomanufacturing approaches. The broader impact of this proposal includes the participation of high school, undergraduate and graduate level scientists in research at the intersection of neuroscience, tissue engineering and biomanufacturing, thus presenting a useful platform for the training of interdisciplinary scientists.