Research Highlight

Researchers grow brain tissues in a 3D printed bioreactor

doi:10.1038/nindia.2021.81 Published online 29 May 2021

A sketch of the bioreactor.


Brain tissues grown inside a 3D-printed, nutrient-rich bioreactor can mimic specific human brain structures, according to research by scientists at Indian Institute of Technology in Madras and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA1.  

An imaging facility can track the growth of such cells inside the bioreactor. Apart from brain cells, the bioreactor could be used to grow and image other human tissues, and to study the interaction of the novel coronavirus with host cells, the researchers say.

Previous studies used tiny clusters of tissues called organoids to grow various human tissues. The core of such organoids don’t get enough nutrients while growing, and this triggers cell death. To overcome this problem, the scientists designed a bioreactor with a microfluidic chip, wells and channels. The wells allowed cell culture and nutrients to flow through the channels.

The researchers placed two-week-old brain organoids in the wells of the bioreactor. They then smeared nutrients on top of the organoids and covered the wells with thin glass discs. They monitored and imaged the growth of the organoids up to one week. 

The organoids grew in size, showing decreased cell death at their cores. The growing organoids also provided a glimpse of brain development, revealing how neurons and specific glial cells expanded and aided neuronal migration.

The researchers were able to image intrinsic signals emitted during such development. The bioreactor, they say, could be washed, dried and reused and is cheap to produce.


1. Khan, I. et al. A low-cost 3D printed microfluidic bioreactor and imaging chamber for live-organoid imaging. Biomicrofluidics. 15, 024105 (2021) Doi: 10.1063/5.0041027