3D neural tissue models: From spheroids to bioprinting

Biomaterials. 2018 Feb;154:113-133. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2017.10.002. Epub 2017 Nov 8.


Three-dimensional (3D) in vitro neural tissue models provide a better recapitulation of in vivo cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions than conventional two-dimensional (2D) cultures. Therefore, the former is believed to have great potential for both mechanistic and translational studies. In this paper, we review the recent developments in 3D in vitro neural tissue models, with a particular focus on the emerging bioprinted tissue structures. We draw on specific examples to describe the merits and limitations of each model, in terms of different applications. Bioprinting offers a revolutionary approach for constructing repeatable and controllable 3D in vitro neural tissues with diverse cell types, complex microscale features and tissue level responses. Further advances in bioprinting research would likely consolidate existing models and generate complex neural tissue structures bearing higher fidelity, which is ultimately useful for probing disease-specific mechanisms, facilitating development of novel therapeutics and promoting neural regeneration.

Keywords: 3D printing; Glial cells; Nerve regeneration; Neurodegenerative diseases; Neurons; Traumatic nerve injuries.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bioprinting / methods*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Spheroids, Cellular / cytology*
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*
  • Tissue Scaffolds / chemistry