Keynote: Tissue engineered approaches to modelling the nervous system

Phillips, James (2009). Keynote: Tissue engineered approaches to modelling the nervous system. In: NC3Rs/BBSRC Symposium – Tissue engineering: a new dimension to animal replacement, 1-2 Apr 2009, London, UK.



Unravelling the complex molecular and cellular biology of the mammalian nervous system demands the use of a diverse range of models. The development of a new generation of tissue engineered culture models offers an exciting opportunity to fill the gulf that has traditionally existed between simple cell culture systems and whole animal or tissue slice approaches. Those traditional models are used extremely effectively by the neuroscience research community, but there are some areas in which tissue engineering technology has facilitated research that would not have been possible previously, in particular, when studying damage and repair. Cells in traditional cultures often fail to adopt phenotypes and responses characteristic of their behaviour in vivo, whilst in animal models the dynamic environment and complex interactions between cells often make it difficult to isolate a specific feature under investigation or to monitor cellular events continuously. Tissue engineered 3D models have the potential to exploit the advantages of traditional culture systems, facilitating detailed control and monitoring of cellular responses, whilst providing a spatial and mechanical environment in which cells more closely resemble their in vivo counterparts. A variety of recent tissue engineered culture models which have been applied to neuroscience research will be discussed. These range from simple models with single cell types in defined matrices to multifaceted models with increased complexity, such as co-cultures of multiple cell types or systems with controlled mechanical and chemical properties.

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