The First High-Resolution, 3D-Printed Brain

(Picture: MedUni Vienna)

In a joint challenge between Medical College of Vienna and TU Wien, the world’s first 3D-printed “mind phantom” has been developed; it’s modeled on the construction of mind fibers and will be imaged utilizing a particular variant of magnetic resonance imaging.

The crew has proven in a research that these mind fashions can be utilized to advance analysis into neurodegenerative illnesses comparable to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and a number of sclerosis. The analysis work was revealed within the journal Superior Supplies Applied sciences.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a extensively used diagnostic imaging method that’s primarily used to look at the mind. MRI can be utilized to look at the construction and performance of the mind with out using ionizing radiation. In a particular variant of MRI, diffusion-weighted MRI (dMRI), the course of the nerve fibers within the mind may also be decided. Nonetheless, it is rather tough to accurately decide the course of nerve fibers on the crossing factors of nerve fiber bundles, as nerve fibers with completely different instructions overlap there.

To additional enhance the method and check evaluation and analysis strategies, a world crew in collaboration with the Medical College of Vienna and TU Wien developed a so-called “mind phantom,” which was produced utilizing a high-resolution 3D printing course of.

Right here is an unique Tech Briefs interview — edited for size and readability — with First Authors Michael Woletz, Heart for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, MedUni Vienna, and Franziska Chalupa-Gantner, 3D Printing and Biofabrication analysis group, TU Wien.

Tech Briefs: I’m certain there have been too many to rely, however what was the largest technical problem you confronted whereas 3D printing this high-res mind?

Chalupa-Gantner: The 3D-printing method, Two-Photon Polymerization, we’re working with is normally used to print constructions with a dimension of a number of 100µm3 and options all the way down to the sub-micron area. To measure the phantoms within the MRI, their total dimension needed to attain at the least mm3. Subsequently, we needed to upscale the printing course of and improve the throughput whereas retaining the excessive decision, which isn’t simple since excessive decision and throughput contradict one another.

One main problem is that the optical system, an important a part of the printer, has a restricted subject of view that defines the world during which it’s doable to print. After we purpose to print a construction that exceeds the optics’ subject of view, it must be divided into smaller components which can be printed consecutively and are then stitched collectively in the course of the printing. Precision is essential to offering high-quality constructions!

Tech Briefs: Are you able to clarify in easy phrases the way it can result in improved dMRI?

Woletz: The fundamental concept is that having a phantom with identified diffusion properties, much like the axons within the human mind, will help within the improvement and validation of each diffusion weighted MRI sequences after which within the evaluation of the information. By figuring out the configurations, the sequences will be improved to focus on the variations in comparable, however essentially completely different conditions, comparable to when axons cross or make turns. Understanding the precise 3D construction, measured utilizing precise MRI sequences, can then be used for enhancing present algorithms and distinguishing these situations.

Tech Briefs: What are its professionals and cons?

Woletz: Present check constructions for diffusion can solely recreate easy check instances, and we usually can’t describe them precisely. For instance, one check case is after we use different objects, comparable to asparagus as check objects, the place we will measure the diffusion however the precise path of the person fibers is unknown and no sophisticated constructions exist. In regard to the cons, we can’t but produce phantoms with comparable sizes to a mind and the diffusion in our phantom is barely a mannequin for the precise diffusivity properties of axons, because the construction of an axon is extra sophisticated than the water-filled channels we will produce.

Tech Briefs: The article I learn quotes you as saying, “The excessive decision of Two-Photon Polymerization makes it doable to print particulars within the micro- and nanometer vary and is subsequently very appropriate for imaging cranial nerves. On the similar time, nevertheless, it takes a correspondingly very long time to print a dice a number of cubic centimeters in dimension utilizing this method. We’re subsequently not solely aiming to develop much more advanced designs, but in addition to additional optimize the printing course of itself.” My query is: How is that coming alongside? Any updates you’ll be able to share?

Franziska Chalupa-Gantner: Throughout our analysis on growing the mind phantoms, we discovered that the mechanical traits of the fabric used for printing play an important position in upscaling 2PP. In a cooperative challenge with the TU Wien spin-off firm UpNano, which produces high-throughput 2PP printers, we had been capable of check the mechanical properties of 2PP resins by printing specimens within the mm to cm vary utilizing established standardized testing strategies. This is a vital step to understanding which supplies are appropriate for additional upscaling 2PP and permit for producing even bigger object sizes.

Tech Briefs: What are your subsequent steps? Do you’ve gotten any plans for additional analysis/work/and many others.?

Woletz: The obvious subsequent step is in fact to create extra sophisticated constructions than proven within the current paper and to change completely different properties, such because the density and dimension of the person channels with a purpose to see the impact this has on the measurements.

Tech Briefs: Do you’ve gotten any recommendation for engineers/researchers aiming to deliver their concepts to fruition (broadly talking)?

Chalupa-Gantner: Generally, issues come up the place you would not anticipate them, forcing you to look in a special course. This may be difficult however very useful because you get conversant in a brand new subject or matter. There’s a German saying: ‘Umwege erhöhen die Ortskenntnis.’ which interprets to ‘Detours develop your data of your environment.’