USU engineers fighting Alzheimer’s with 3D tissue engineering

Biological Engineering graduate student Gregory Jensen and assistant professor Yu Huang are developing new ways to use engineered materials to screen for new drug therapies.

Utah State University biological engineers Greg Jensen and Yu Huang are using 3D tissue engineering to develop drugs that combat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders.

Jensen said tissue engineering is the application of engineering principles and basic sciences to treat or sometimes replace damaged tissues and organs within the human body.

“The three-dimensional part comes in because cells found in the human body are naturally in a 3D environment,” Jensen explained, “and so as we are designing materials outside of the body we do our best to design 3D material that mimic the natural environment of the human body for cells to grow in.”

Jensen said the objective is to develop better anti-inflammatory agents and then find a way to deliver them to damaged tissues in the brain.

”That’s actually a very serious problem because the brain is surrounded by a layer called the blood-brain barrier which inhibits passing of molecules through it. And so in most cases at this time you have to actually damage the blood-brain barrier to introduce therapeutics into it.”

Jensen said one of the problems they are addressing is inflammation because neurodegenerative diseases cause inflammation in the central nervous system.

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