The MESO-BRAIN consortium said today it has received €3.3 million ($3.7 million) from the European Commission under its Future and Emerging Technology (FET) funding program.

The MESO-BRAIN initiative will use human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that have been differentiated into neurons upon a defined and reproducible 3D scaffold, to support the development of human neural networks that emulate brain activity.

The structure—to be based on a brain cortical module—will be designed and produced using nanoscale 3D-laser-printed structures incorporating nanoelectrodes to enable downstream electrophysiological analysis of neural network function, the consortium said.

MESO-BRAIN plans to conduct optical analysis using light-sheet-based, fast volumetric imaging technology to enable cellular resolution throughout the 3D network.

The initiative’s goals include emulating brain activity and improving understanding and treatment of conditions that include Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and trauma. MESO-BRAIN is also expected to enable the development of large-scale human cell-based assays to test the modulatory effects of pharmacological and toxicological compounds on neural network activity.

The use of more physiologically relevant human models will increase drug screening efficiency and reduce the need for animal testing, according to the consortium.

MESO-BRAIN will launch in September, with research to be conducted over 3 years.

“What we’re proposing to achieve with this project has, until recently, been the stuff of science fiction,” Prof. Edik Rafailov of Aston University, head of the MESO-BRAIN project, said in a statement. “Being able to extract and replicate neural networks from the brain through 3D nanoprinting promises to change this.”

The initiative’s research, led by Aston University, is a collaboration between Axol Bioscience, Laser Zentrum Hannover, University of Barcelona, Institute of Photonic Sciences, and KITE Innovation.

FET is part of the EC’s Horizon 2020 framework for research and innovation funding, with nearly €80 billion ($90.6 billion) available over 7 years (2014 to 2020).

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