Unlocking Neural Function with 3D In Vitro Models: A Technical Review of Self-Assembled, Guided, and Bioprinted Brain Organoids and Their Applications in the Study of Neurodevelopmental and Neurodegenerative Disorders

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Jun 28;24(13):10762. doi: 10.3390/ijms241310762.


Understanding the complexities of the human brain and its associated disorders poses a significant challenge in neuroscience. Traditional research methods have limitations in replicating its intricacies, necessitating the development of in vitro models that can simulate its structure and function. Three-dimensional in vitro models, including organoids, cerebral organoids, bioprinted brain models, and functionalized brain organoids, offer promising platforms for studying human brain development, physiology, and disease. These models accurately replicate key aspects of human brain anatomy, gene expression, and cellular behavior, enabling drug discovery and toxicology studies while providing insights into human-specific phenomena not easily studied in animal models. The use of human-induced pluripotent stem cells has revolutionized the generation of 3D brain structures, with various techniques developed to generate specific brain regions. These advancements facilitate the study of brain structure development and function, overcoming previous limitations due to the scarcity of human brain samples. This technical review provides an overview of current 3D in vitro models of the human cortex, their development, characterization, and limitations, and explores the state of the art and future directions in the field, with a specific focus on their applications in studying neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders.

Keywords: 22q11 syndrome; Alzheimer’s disease; astrocytes; bioprinting; cortical organoids; iPSC; microglia; neuronal development; neurons.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / metabolism
  • Organoids