Using 3D Bioprinted brain tumor to measure the success of cancer treatments.

A group of researchers form the US and Germany are using 3D bioprinted brain tumors to study an aggressive form of brain tumor, glioblastoma (GBM).

The brain structure gives a 3D and more realistic view at how the tumor grows and how the treatments affect it, this could help the medical field speed up new drug tests. The bioprint is made up of a collection of brain cells and biomass and has vascular channels allowing drug delivery. The team also uses 3D imaging technology to allow noninvasive assessment of tissue constructs.

“This is a very difficult brain tumor to treat,” explains Guohao Dai, an associate professor of bioengineering at Northeastern University and corresponding author on the study. “And it’s also difficult to do research on the brain tumor, because you cannot really see what’s happening.” Continuing ”With our 3D glioblastoma model and imaging platform, you can see how the cells respond to radiation or chemotherapy very quickly.”

GBM is a deadly form of cancer with only ten percent of patients diagnosed living more than 5 years. With  no way to observe how the tumor grows in living brain tissue, studying GBM is quite difficult. In order to study GBM more directly Dai and his team 3D bioprinted an in vitro GBM tumor model with microenvironments that mimic the invasive tumor behaviors.  Explaining how the model was bioprinted, Dai states: “We use human brain blood vessel cells, and connect them with all the neurons, pericytes, astrocytes, the major cell types in the human brain. ”Hydrogel was used as a matrix to hold these cells in place. “Then we use 3D printing to stack them in three dimensional fashion.”

With the help of Jenny Zou, a neurosurgeon, and Roland Friedel, a neuroscientist, at Mount Sinai’s medical school the team were able to get glioblastoma tumor stem cells from brain tumor patients and place them in the 3D bioprinted model to observe it’s invasive behavior:  “The 3D constructed model allows replicating 3D environment for the physiological tumor invasion and the antitreatment responses. The incorporation of a tumor spheroid within 3D matrix not only allows the GBM invasion but also increases the life span of the tumor spheroid. Long-term culture is required for tumor stem cell differentiation and therapeutic resistance development,” explained the researchers in the paper.

“To accurately observe what was happening inside the 3D model without disrupting it, Xavier Intes, a biomedical engineer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, scanned the sample using a laser, creating a 3D snapshot of the cellular structure. Combining this imaging technique with 3D bioprinting has allowed the researchers to assess how the tumor responded to a commonly used chemotherapy drug, temozolomide, evaluating its effectiveness in the process. “

They found that the drug did not work in the long term, matching the experience of patients with glioblastoma. “We treated the tumor with the same kind of drug you give to a patient when they undergo chemotherapy,” added Dai. “We monitored this chemotherapy over two months. And what we found was the chemotherapy was not able to kill the tumor.”


Essop, Anas, et al. “Researchers Use 3D Bioprinted Brain Tumor Model to Identify Successful Cancer Treatments.” 3D Printing Industry, 2 Apr. 2020,