Image provided by Jennifer Shepherd, Ralph Nuzzo Lab
Research funded by the W. M. Keck Foundation
The brain is made up of many tiny cells called neurons that communicate with each other through a complicated network of delicate, branching connections. To study those connections more closely, researchers sometimes grow neurons in artificial conditions, but a two-dimensional Petri dish is very different from the three-dimensional scaffold found inside the brain. This image shows a hydrogel substrate created to more closely mimic the natural scaffold of the brain, entwined with the branching outgrowths of developing neurons.