Artificial neurons and 3D printed blood cells: Disease is dead
Neurological and blood diseases, capture a great majority of lives globally due to their often lethal nature and the inability of drugs to catch up to the illnesses’ potency.
Now tech is turning the tables and killing those diseases.
Researchers at the University of Bath in England, University of Zurich, University of Bristol, and the University of Auckland created the first ever Artificial Neurons to Cure Chronic Diseases, by recreating the electrical properties of biological neurons onto microchips.
Chronic diseases such as heart failure and Alzheimer’s are among a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. Now, for the first time ever, artificial neurons on silicon chips work just like the real deal.
Artificial neurons behave much in the same way as biological neurons. Moreover, they only require one billionth of the power of a microprocessor. This makes them extremely well-suited for medical implants and bio-electronic devices.
Where neurons no longer function properly such as when people have suffered a spinal cord injury where the neurons’ processes have been severed, these implants can restore functions, and repair broken bio-circuits by imitating their usually-healthy functions and helping the body to respond as it would if it were healthy.
These tiny “brain chips” behave like the real thing and could one day be used to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Prof Alain Nogaret, from Bath’s department of physics, said the novelty of their research was to transfer the electrical properties of brain cells on to synthetic circuits made from silicon.
“Until now, neurons have been like black boxes, but we have managed to open the black box and peer inside,” he said. “Our work is paradigm-changing because it provides a robust method to reproduce the electrical properties of real neurons in minute detail.”
Researchers replicated two types of neurons, including cells from the hippocampus, an area of the brain that plays a major role in memory, and brain cells involved in the control of breathing.
The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.
3D blood vessels
Saga University in western Japan is set to begin clinical research on the transplantation of artificial blood vessels made from patients’ own cells using a 3D bioprinter.
Clinical research on the transplantation of 3D-printed cells or organs is extremely rare across the world, say the university’s researchers.
The clinical research will be conducted on three patients with terminal kidney failure who require dialysis.
The team aims to replace shunts, which have been used in dialysis so far, with artificial blood vessels, because shunts are made of resin and could develop problems such as bad blood flow as a result of clogging in their interior.
If preparations go smoothly, the patients will undergo the transplants as early as next spring.
“We’ve reached a stage where we can proceed together with the patients. Since unexpected things could occur, we’ll move ahead with the project cautiously,” said, co-leader of the team.
The team, co-led by professor Koichi Nakayama and assistant professor Manabu Ito, will extract an approximately 1-centimeter-by-3-centimeter piece of skin from the patients’ groins and generate artificial blood vessels measuring about 5 centimeters in diameter and 5 centimeters long.
The team will then transplant the artificial blood vessels into the arteries and veins of the patients’ forearms through their elbows at a hospital attached to Saga University as early as next spring.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on Nov. 7 approved the plan to create artificial blood vessels using a 3D printer after the Gamagori City Hospital screened the clinical research plan.