Modelling the Central Nervous System: tissue engineering of the cellular microenvironment

Paige Walczak, Patricia Perez Esteban, David Bassett, Eric Hill*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


With the increasing prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases, improved models of the central nervous system (CNS) will improve our understanding of neurophysiology and pathogenesis, whilst enabling exploration of novel therapeutics. Studies of brain physiology have largely been carried out using in vivo models, ex vivo brain slices or primary cell culture from rodents. Whilst these models have provided great insight into complex interactions between brain cell types, key differences remain between human and rodent brains, such as degree of cortical complexity. Unfortunately, comparative models of human brain tissue are lacking. The development of induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) has accelerated advancement within the field of in vitro tissue modelling. However, despite generating accurate cellular representations of cortical development and disease, two-dimensional (2D) iPSC-derived cultures lack an entire dimension of environmental information on structure, migration, polarity, neuronal circuitry and spatiotemporal organisation of cells. As such, researchers look to tissue engineering in order to develop advanced biomaterials and culture systems capable of providing necessary cues for guiding cell fates, to construct in vitro model systems with increased biological relevance. This review highlights experimental methods for engineering of in vitro culture systems to recapitulate the complexity of the CNS with consideration given to previously unexploited biophysical cues within the cellular microenvironment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-517
Number of pages11
JournalEmerging Topics in Life Sciences
Issue number4
Early online date15 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Author(s). This is an open access article published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society and the Royal Society of Biology and distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY).

Funding: Dr Hill acknowledges financial support from EPSRC-SFI Joint Centre for Doctoral Training in Engineered Tissues for Discovery, Industry and Medicine.


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