Prominent neuropathology following trauma, stroke, and various neurodegenerative diseases includes neuronal degeneration as well as loss of long-distance axonal connections. While cell replacement and axonal pathfinding strategies are often explored independently, there is no strategy capable of simultaneously replacing lost neurons and re-establishing long-distance axonal connections in the central nervous system. Accordingly, we have created micro-tissue engineered neural networks (micro-TENNs), which are preformed constructs consisting of long integrated axonal tracts spanning discrete neuronal populations. These living micro-TENNs reconstitute the architecture of long-distance axonal tracts, and thus may serve as an effective substrate for targeted neurosurgical reconstruction of damaged pathways in the brain. Cerebral cortical neurons or dorsal root ganglia neurons were precisely delivered into the tubular constructs, and properties of the hydrogel exterior and extracellular matrix internal column (180-500 μm diameter) were optimized for robust neuronal survival and to promote axonal extensions across the 2.0 cm tube length. The very small diameter permits minimally invasive delivery into the brain. In this study, preformed micro-TENNs were stereotaxically injected into naive rats to bridge deep thalamic structures with the cerebral cortex to assess construct survival and integration. We found that micro-TENN neurons survived at least 1 month and maintained their long axonal architecture along the cortical-thalamic axis. Notably, we also found neurite penetration from micro-TENN neurons into the host cortex, with evidence of synapse formation. These micro-TENNs represent a new strategy to facilitate nervous system repair by recapitulating features of neural pathways to restore or modulate damaged brain circuitry.
Brain organoids are an exciting new technology with the potential to significantly change how diseases of the brain are understood and treated. These three-dimensional neural tissues are derived from the self-organization of pluripotent stem cells, and they recapitulate the developmental process of the human brain, including progenitor zones and rudimentary cortical layers. Brain organoids have been valuable in investigating different aspects of developmental neurobiology and comparative biology. Several characteristics of organoids also make them attractive as models of brain disorders. Data generated from human organoids are more generalizable to patients because of the match in species background. Personalized organoids also can be generated from patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells. Furthermore, the three-dimensionality of brain organoids supports cellular, mechanical, and topographical cues that are lacking in planar systems. In this review, we discuss the translational potential of brain organoids, using the examples of Zika virus, autism-spectrum disorder, and glioblastoma multiforme to consider how they could contribute to disease modeling, personalized medicine, and testing of therapeutics. We then discuss areas of improvement in organoid technology that will enhance the translational potential of brain organoids, as well as the possibility of their use as substrates for repairing cerebral circuitry after injury.
Soft bioelectronic interfaces for mapping and modulating excitable networks at high resolution and at large scale can enable paradigm-shifting diagnostics, monitoring, and treatment strategies. Yet, current technologies largely rely on materials and fabrication schemes that are expensive, do not scale, and critically limit the maximum attainable resolution and coverage. Solution processing is a cost-effective manufacturing alternative, but biocompatible conductive inks matching the performance of conventional metals are lacking. Here, we introduce MXtrodes, a class of soft, high-resolution, large-scale bioelectronic interfaces enabled by Ti 3 C 2 MXene (a twodimensional transition metal carbide nanomaterial) and scalable solution processing. We show that the electrochemical properties of MXtrodes exceed those of conventional materials and do not require conductive gels when used in epidermal electronics. Furthermore, we validate MXtrodes in applications ranging from mapping largescale neuromuscular networks in humans to cortical neural recording and microstimulation in swine and rodent models. Last, we demonstrate that MXtrodes are compatible with standard clinical neuroimaging modalities.
Restoring neurological and cognitive function in individuals who have suffered brain damage is one of the principal objectives of modern translational neuroscience. Electrical stimulation approaches, such as deep-brain stimulation, have achieved the most clinical success, but they ultimately may be limited by the computational capacity of the residual cerebral circuitry. An alternative strategy is brain substrate expansion, in which the computational capacity of the brain is augmented through the addition of new processing units and the reconstitution of network connectivity. This latter approach has been explored to some degree using both biological and electronic means but thus far has not demonstrated the ability to reestablish the function of large-scale neuronal networks. In this review, we contend that fulfilling the potential of brain substrate expansion will require a significant shift from current methods that emphasize direct manipulations of the brain (e.g., injections of cellular suspensions and the implantation of multi-electrode arrays) to the generation of more sophisticated neural tissues and neural-electric hybrids in vitro that are subsequently transplanted into the brain. Drawing from neural tissue engineering, stem cell biology, and neural interface technologies, this strategy makes greater use of the manifold techniques available in the laboratory to create biocompatible constructs that recapitulate brain architecture and thus are more easily recognized and utilized by brain networks.
The ideal neuroprosthetic interface permits high-quality neural recording and stimulation of the nervous system while reliably providing clinical benefits over chronic periods. Although current technologies have made notable strides in this direction, significant improvements must be made to better achieve these design goals and satisfy clinical needs. This article provides an overview of the state of neuroprosthetic interfaces, starting with the design and placement of these interfaces before exploring the stimulation and recording platforms yielded from contemporary research. Finally, we outline emerging research trends in an effort to explore the potential next generation of neuroprosthetic interfaces.
Innervation plays a pivotal role as a driver of tissue and organ development as well as a means for their functional control and modulation. Therefore, innervation should be carefully considered throughout the process of biofabrication of engineered tissues and organs. Unfortunately, innervation has generally been overlooked in most non-neural tissue engineering applications, in part due to the intrinsic complexity of building organs containing heterogeneous native cell types and structures. To achieve proper innervation of engineered tissues and organs, specific host axon populations typically need to be precisely driven to appropriate location(s) within the construct, often over long distances. As such, neural tissue engineering and/or axon guidance strategies should be a necessary adjunct to most organogenesis endeavors across multiple tissue and organ systems. To address this challenge, our team is actively building axon-based "living scaffolds" that may physically wire in during organ development in bioreactors and/or serve as a substrate to effectively drive targeted long-distance growth and integration of host axons after implantation. This article reviews the neuroanatomy and the role of innervation in the functional regulation of cardiac, skeletal, and smooth muscle tissue and highlights potential strategies to promote innervation of biofabricated engineered muscles, as well as the use of "living scaffolds" in this endeavor for both in vitro and in vivo applications. We assert that innervation should be included as a necessary component for tissue and organ biofabrication, and that strategies to orchestrate host axonal integration are advantageous to ensure proper function, tolerance, assimilation, and bio-regulation with the recipient post-implant.
The classic motor deficits of Parkinson's disease are caused by degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta, resulting in the loss of their long-distance axonal projections that modulate the striatum. Current treatments only minimize the symptoms of this disconnection as there is no approach capable of replacing the nigrostriatal pathway. We are applying microtissue engineering techniques to create living, implantable constructs that mimic the architecture and function of the nigrostriatal pathway. These constructs consist of dopaminergic neurons with long axonal tracts encased within hydrogel microcolumns. Microcolumns were seeded with dopaminergic neuronal aggregates, while lumen extracellular matrix, growth factors, and end targets were varied to optimize cytoarchitecture. We found a 10-fold increase in axonal outgrowth from aggregates versus dissociated neurons, resulting in remarkable axonal lengths of over 6 mm by 14 days and 9 mm by 28 days in vitro. Axonal extension was also dependent upon lumen extracellular matrix, but did not depend on growth factor enrichment or neuronal end target presence. Evoked dopamine release was measured via fast scan cyclic voltammetry and synapse formation with striatal neurons was observed in vitro. Constructs were microinjected to span the nigrostriatal pathway in rats, revealing survival of implanted neurons while maintaining their axonal projections within the microcolumn. Lastly, these constructs were generated with dopaminergic neurons differentiated from human embryonic stem cells. This strategy may improve Parkinson's disease treatment by simultaneously replacing lost dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra and reconstructing their long-projecting axonal tracts to the striatum.
Brain-computer interface and neuromodulation strategies relying on penetrating non-organic electrodes/optrodes are limited by an inflammatory foreign body response that ultimately diminishes performance. A novel "biohybrid" strategy is advanced, whereby living neurons, biomaterials, and microelectrode/optical technology are used together to provide a biologicallybased vehicle to probe and modulate nervous-system activity. Microtissue engineering techniques are employed to create axon-based "living electrodes", which are columnar microstructures comprised of neuronal population(s) projecting long axonal tracts within the lumen of a hydrogel designed to chaperone delivery into the brain. Upon microinjection, the axonal segment penetrates to prescribed depth for synaptic integration with local host neurons, with the perikaryal segment remaining externalized below conforming electrical-optical arrays. In this paradigm, only the biological component ultimately remains in the brain, potentially attenuating a chronic foreign-body This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. 4 response. Axon-based living electrodes are constructed using multiple neuronal subtypes, each with differential capacity to stimulate, inhibit, and/or modulate neural circuitry based on specificity uniquely afforded by synaptic integration, yet ultimately computer controlled by optical/electrical components on the brain surface. Current efforts are assessing the efficacy of this biohybrid interface for targeted, synaptic-based neuromodulation, and the specificity, spatial density and longterm fidelity versus conventional microelectronic or optical substrates alone.
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