This might look like fancy confectionary, but it’s actually the spongy scaffold in which a sophisticated type of lab-grown brain tissue was created. The sponge-like material, which is made from a protein found in silk, was formed into six differently coloured rings and seeded with neurons from a rat, while the middle was filled with collagen gel – much like a jam doughnut. Within days, the neurons had formed networks and projected nerve fibres through the gel to connect with neurons across the doughnut. After a few weeks, the centre had become a distinct region of white matter, packed with crisscrossing nerve fibres, while the rings resembled neuron-packed grey matter. When researchers dropped a weight onto the tissue, it responded with changes in electrical and chemical activity much like a real rat brain. Among other things, then, this brain-like tissue could be used to study how brains respond to traumatic injury.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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