“I am very excited about the laser-assisted bioprinting technology,” says Francesca Spagnoli, Ph.D., group leader at the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, King’s College London. “It allows high control and resolution of cell positioning.”
Spagnoli also says it is important that the technology enables the elements of the pancreatic microenvironment to be integrated in the correct ratio, in a precise and reproducible fashion compared to self-assembly approaches. Though this technique creates the highest resolution, the range of materials that can be used is limited, and the chemistry involved can be toxic to cells. Fortunately, a form of light-based printing called stereolithography has advanced greatly in recent years. Resins that are biocompatible and biodegradeable has led to improvements in implants and will be more useful in the field of regenerative medicine.
Giraldo says that regardless of the printing choice, for now most of the focus is on smaller tissues—sheets, or hollow tissues such as patches or tubes that can re-create functional tissue structures. There are currently limitations on creating larger tissues for human transplantation because of the time required to print them, and the need for understanding the key components to create a long functioning tissue.
Still, this technology is filling in key gaps in research. It allows scientists to build specific structures that could protect implanted cells, increase the survival and function of cells and support integration of the tissue structure with the recipient once implanted, a key step that would be necessary for cell therapies to work for people with T1D. Also, certain components in the tissue could release drugs locally that would modulate a person’s immune system, or assist in monitoring the implant.
“The final results should be more mature ‘cellular products’ for beta cell replacement as a functional cure for T1D,” says Spagnoli.
We hope so.
To find out more about our beta cell replacement program, go here.