The MESO-BRAIN initiative, a project targeting a transformative progress in photonics, neuroscience and medicine has received €3.3 million ($3.7 million) in funding from the European Commission through its Future and Emerging Technology program (part of Horizon 2020).
The project aims to develop three-dimensional human neural networks with specific biological architecture, and the inherent ability to interrogate the network’s brain-like activity both electrophysiologically and optically.
It is expected that the MESO-BRAIN will facilitate a better understanding of human disease progression, neuronal growth and enable the development of large-scale human cell-based assays to test the modulatory effects of pharmacological and toxicological compounds on neural network activity. The use of more physiologically relevant human models will increase drug screening efficiency and reduce the need for animal testing.
The project’s cornerstone will use human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that have been differentiated into neurons upon a defined and reproducible 3D scaffold to support the development of human neural networks that emulate brain activity.
The structure will be based on a brain cortical module and will be unique in that it will be designed and produced using nanoscale 3D-laser-printed structures incorporating nano-electrodes to enable downstream electrophysiological analysis of neural network function.
Optical analysis will be conducted using light sheet-based, fast volumetric imaging technology to enable cellular resolution throughout the 3D network. The MESO-BRAIN project will allow for a comprehensive and detailed investigation of neural network development in health and disease.
“What we’re proposing to achieve with this project has, until recently, been the stuff of science fiction,” Edik Rafailov, head of the project at Aston University, said in a statement. “Being able to extract and replicate neural networks from the brain through 3D nanoprinting promises to change this. The MESO-BRAIN project has the potential to revolutionise the way we are able to understand the onset and development of disease and discover treatments for those with dementia or brain injuries.”
The project will launch in September and research will be conducted over three years.
Each of the consortium partners have been chosen on the basis of their specific skills and knowledge, including technologies and expertise in stem cells, photonics, physics, 3D nanoprinting, electrophysiology, molecular biology, imaging and commercialization.
The partners are: Aston University (U.K.); Axol Bioscience Ltd. (U.K.); Laser Zentrum Hannover (Germany); University of Barcelona (Spain); Institute of Photonic Sciences (Spain), and KITE Innovation (U.K.).