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High schooler’s 3D printed ‘mini-brain’ bioreactor accelerates Zika research

by • May 2, 2016 • No Comments

A "mini-brain" infected with Zika. The red-dye indicates vulnerable progenitor cells.

A “mini-brain” infected with Zika. The red dye indicates vulnerable progenitor cells.

What are you planning on doing this summer? Probably not designing a ingenious new bioreactor with which a thousand “mini-brains” can undergo testing. You’re most likely not designing a bioreactor at all! But New York high schooler Christopher Hadiono did just which, and his powerful and efficient 3D-printed machine is now beginning to manufacture waves.

Hadiono put the machine together during a summer internship in the lab of Johns Hopkins neurology professor Hongjun Song. The SpinΩ, as it’s called, is bargain-priced and versatile, as Song and others demonstrate in a new paper.

Mini-brains themselves aren’t a new idea: they’re all but small collections of stem-cell-derived neurons which can be experimented on as if they were developing brains. They’re not ideal, but they’re useful, and the additional you have, the advantageous.


Most of Hadiono’s bioreactor can be made in an ordinary 3D printing device, yet of course it must be augmented with the precision parts needed to perform experiments. Not just is it bargain-priceder to manufacture ($400 versus of $2,000 for a commercial platform), but it’s additional small, and just a small amount of nutritive fluid needs to be utilized for every one. The outcome is which for a fraction of the cost, you can fit 10 times the number of mini-brains within a standard incubator.

Print“I was shocked,” Song told Spectrum News, which reports on autism-related developments. “We did not ponder which actually a biotechnology graduate student may manufacture this into a reality.”

Song didn’t wait long to put the device into action: He and others newly published a paper in the journal Cell which not just details the engineering of the SpinΩ itself (including printing files), but in addition an experiment which seems to strengthen the link between Zika infection and microcephaly.

Other labs are in addition getting in on the SpinΩ fun and assembling their own, Song confirmed to TechCrunch in an email. There has in addition been interest of equipment manufacturers in licensing or otherwise employing the process. Don’t worry — Hadiono is yet involved, and his name is on the patent application.

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