JDRF Collaboration Leads to Next-Generation Cell Therapy Research

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Scientists 3D Bioprinting at Aspect Biosystems

JDRF is committed to supporting the development of cell replacement therapies that will one day offer cures for type 1 diabetes (T1D). The first step, initiated more than 60 years ago, is replacing cells that have been lost with donor-derived or renewably sourced cells.

Cell transplantation outcomes to restore glucose control have improved over the years, but currently still require immunosuppressive drugs—medications that keep the immune system from attacking these cells and rejecting the implant. Taking these medications can have detrimental side effects on a person’s organs. The need for chronic use of immunosuppressive drugs has limited transplantation to people with diabetes who have severe, life-threatening unawareness of their low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.

3D Bioprinting: A Paradigm Shift in Treatment Technology

3D bioprinting employs methods used in traditional 3D printing, except it’s used to combine cells and other biomaterials to fabricate tissues and organs. In 2019, JDRF held a workshop to discuss ways that 3D bioprinting could be used to develop cell therapies for T1D and subsequently put out a request for applications for this new and innovative technology.

Enter Aspect Biosystems, an industry leader in 3D bioprinting. Its unique technology allows the combination of multiple different biomaterials in one cell-containing implant. Founded in 2013 and located in Vancouver, Aspect’s technology was a perfect match to support development of an implantable insulin-producing cell therapy for T1D without the need for immune suppression. JDRF provided funding for the project in 2022, giving strategic support through its deep expertise and vast network in the diabetes field.

Fast forward to this week: Aspect Biosystems and Novo Nordisk announced a partnership to expand the development a new class of treatments for diabetes and obesity, using Aspect’s bioprinting technology and Novo Nordisk’s expertise in stem cell and cell therapy development.

“With this partnership, we have a leader in the diabetes space, Novo Nordisk, investing in the technology developed by Aspect Biosystems,” said Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D., JDRF Chief Scientific Officer. “We are delighted by this partnership, which helps validate JDRF’s focus in this area. This development could be very beneficial for the T1D community, as it is another approach that could make cell therapies an option for more people with type 1 diabetes.”

The Aspect-Novo Nordisk partnership’s initial focus will be on developing bioprinted therapies for transplant that would be designed to maintain normal blood-sugar levels without the need for immunosuppression. This could represent a transformative treatment for people living with T1D.

Stay tuned for more on this breakthrough collaboration.

Photo courtesy Aspect Biosystems