Although it’s a common misconception that one can just snap a few photos of a 3D object, wave a magic wand around and produce a perfect replica, a 3D printed model is really only as good as the data you put into it. And for us, that always comes down to preparing the tissue properly from start to finish.
Our object in question (if you haven’t already gathered from the blog) is brain tissue. For various purposes, ranging from research to teaching, many members of Our Team have brain tissue from a range of vertebrates in our existing collections. So, how did they get there? And how can you ensure they’ll be optimal for 3D printing?
All research starts and ends with animal ethics. All tissue that we have collected has been in accordance with the ethical guidelines of the University of Western Australia. With the approval Animal Ethics Committee, we ensure all tissue is collected humanely and that we only collect what we need to achieve statistical significance. And projects like this one are great, because it also ensures we can print additional samples as needed without the need to collect new animals.
Preparation of brain tissue usually involves perfusion with a fixative – this involves replacing blood with a type of preservation liquid and ensures the brain tissue is fixed quickly and completely. We used a range of aldehyde-based fixatives (such as 10% formalin, 4% paraformaldehyde , and Karnovsky’s). By doing this, you can ensure that the brain tissue can (and will) be stored for many years without degrading. Because brain tissue starts to break down very quickly, this is a critically important step to preserve the integrity of the tissue.
Once the tissue is fixed, you have many options, including gross dissection, brain sectioning (for histology or immunohistochemistry), and a range of bioimaging techniques. For this project, we have opted to utilize magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to obtain 3D digital data from the brain tissue – more on MRI in our next post!