Gabriel Salg took part in the project. In this MEDICA-tradefair.com interview, he talks about the challenges the team of researchers had to overcome and explains why 3D printed tissue is not the same as 3D printed organs.
Mr. Salg, what was the objective of the Eurostars 3D-PIVOT project?
Gabriel Salg: The aim of the 3D-PIVOT project was to develop and validate a concept for producing functional insulin-producing cells using 3D bioprinting. Although the experimental research was only done in vitro, the idea from the outset was to take a scalable production and application concept for future use in humans into consideration.
Together with our German project partners (ASD Advanced Simulation and Design GmbH in Rostock and INOVA DE GmbH based in Heidelberg), we developed various software modules to evaluate the suitability of a 3D model for bioprinting via complex in silico simulations prior to production. This resulted in a concept for a hybrid insulin-producing device. Our Romanian technology partner LTHD Ltd. from Timisoara developed a new type of 3D bioprinter.
What successes have you had?
Salg: We successfully used a bottom-up tissue engineering approach to create insulin-producing tissue. Insulin-producing cells were embedded in hydrogel and printed with repetitious accuracy using a 3D bioprinter. In the subsequent cell cultivation step, we observed the formation of cell clusters from the original single cells in the gel. This is attributed to the specific 3D hydrogel environment and impossible to achieve in conventional 2D cell culture.
The cell clusters produce insulin, along the lines of islets of Langerhans in the human pancreas. There was experimental evidence of growth, survival, and function of the cell clusters - also via glucose stimulation. Further experiments on fertilized chicken eggs examined the extent to which new vascular networks grow into the 3D bioprinted structures and whether the cells survive over a longer period without a culture medium and nutrients. We detected extensive vascular growth and the formation of new blood vessels, respectively.
The successful results we achieved in the past years must be replicated in vivo - referring to animal experiments - in upcoming projects to make reliable statements based on high- quality science practices.