Scientists grow functioning human neural networks in 3-D from stem cells

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A team of Tufts University-led researchers has developed three-dimensional (3-D) human tissue culture models for the central nervous system that mimic structural and functional features of the brain and demonstrate neural activity sustained over a period of many months. With the ability to populate a 3-D matrix of silk protein and collagen with cells from patients with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other conditions, the tissue models allow for the exploration of cell interactions, disease progression and response to treatment. The development and characterization of the models are reported today in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, a journal of the American Chemical Society. The new 3-D brain tissue models overcome a key challenge of previous models -the availability of human source neurons. This is due to the fact that neurological tissues are rarely removed from healthy patients and are usually only available post-mortem from diseased patients.