The Oxford Martin Programme on

3D Printing for Brain Repair

the challenge

Brain damage, whether through disease or trauma, can be devastating for patients and their families. To date, pharmaceuticals and biotherapeutics have failed to effectively treat brain damage, and alternative approaches are urgently required.

This programme is pioneering a radical new approach in which the brain is repaired with 3D-printed neural tissues.

Looking initially at traumatic brain injury, which affects 5.3 million people globally, the research will lay the groundwork for tackling brain repair with personalised neural implants, produced by 3D printing with the patients’ own stem cells.

The project aims to create cortical tissue by generating neurons and support cells from human stem cells, “pre organising” the cells in three dimensions and then culturing the cells in-vitro to prepare them for implantation, initially in animal models.

The programme will also need to perfect the microsurgical skills required to implant the cortical tissue, and establish the critical time window for implantation. Assessment of integration, electrical activity and behavioural recovery post-implantation will also be required.

Even five years ago 3D printing brain implants from human stem cells would have been considered science fiction. Now we have the means to make it a reality, and to generate a low-cost medical technology to address the growing global catastrophe of brain damage through trauma and disease.