Development of innovative 3-D neuronal scaffolds and related additive manufacturing technology for multi-material / multi-functional printing.
Neurodegenerative diseases are a serious human problem and one of the greatest challenges in modern medicine. They have been studied using several theories and methods, including electrical stimulation (ES) of neural stem cells (NCSs) for in vitro application. ES and cell activity recording can be achieved via Micro Electrode Arrays (MEAs) systems. However, the specific correlation between the ranges of parameters for an electrical stimulation and the (single) cellular response is still under development. In addition, researches in neural tissue engineering (NTE) have demonstrated that the fabrication of a 3-D scaffold is necessary to correctly mimic the neural cells microenvironment in real conditions. This proposal aims at an innovative 3-D bio-electrical scaffold for NSCs in vitro studies, printed via Additive Manufacturing (AM) technologies and compatible with MEAs systems. The scaffold features a hydrogel structure with different electrically conductive insulated wires respectively to emit electrical pulses and to mimic the dielectric extra-cellular matrix. The manufacturing strategy combines the AM techniques of Aerosol Jet® Printing and syringe extrusion printing towards the development of a hybrid multi-material/multi-functional approach. Focus will be on UVcurable materials to ensure post-processing compatibility. The project undergoes the entire product development cycle, from materials selection to manufacturing technology, prototyping and validation.