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Cells grown in artificial tissue could help shape treatment for traumatic brain injuries

Scientists have created a technique for growing neurons in artificial brain tissue, which could help researchers discover new ways to help people with traumatic brain injuries.

A study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that the neurons responded the way an actual brain would. The rat neurons were grown in a lab, and then seeded into a "3D tissue made from a mix of doughnut-shaped rings of spongy silk protein and a collagen-based gel," NBC News reports.

"The tissue maintained viability for at least nine weeks — significantly longer than cultures made of collagen or hydrogel alone — and also offered structural support for network connectivity that is crucial for brain activity," the study's principal author, Min Tang-Schomer of Tufts University, said in a statement.

Researchers then dropped a weight onto the tissue and found that the neurons released high levels of glutamate, just as they would if a rat experienced a traumatic brain injury. Using this method, scientists could be able to look at the tissue and determine new ways to dealing with injured brains. "This is perhaps one of the biggest areas of unmet clinical need when you consider the need for new options to understand and treat a wide range of neurological disorders associated with the brain," senior author David Kaplan, a professor of biomedical engineering at Tufts University, said.