Neurons come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. In a quest to understand this neuronal diversity, researchers have three-dimensionally traced tens of thousands of neurons; many of these tracings are freely available through online repositories like NeuroMorpho.Org and ModelDB.
Tracings can be visualized on the computer screen, used for statistical analysis of the properties of different cell types, used to simulate neuronal behavior, and more. We introduce the use of 3D printing as a technique for visualizing traced morphologies.
Our method for generating printable versions of a cell or group of cells is to expand dendrite and axon diameters and then to transform the tracing into a 3D object with a neuronal surface generating algorithm like Constructive Tessellated Neuronal Geometry (CTNG). We show that 3D printed cells can be readily examined, manipulated, and compared with other neurons to gain insight into both the biology and the reconstruction process. We share our printable models in a new database, 3DModelDB, and encourage others to do the same with cells that they generate using our code or other methods.
To provide additional context, 3DModelDB provides a simulatable version of each cell, links to papers that use or describe it, and links to associated entries in other databases.Read more