3-D Bioprinting of Islet Micro-tissues to Redistribute Manufacture for Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes

Newcastle University

1st October 2015 – 31st March 2016

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s native insulin producing β-cells in the pancreas are destroyed and are consequently unable to maintain normal blood glucose levels. According to Diabetes UK’s latest estimates, 10% of the NHS yearly budget (> £10,000,000,000/year) is presently dedicated to the treatment of diabetes and  its complications, with an expected rise over the next 20 years. Presently, type 1 diabetes is typically treated by careful monitoring of blood glucose levels and insulin replacement therapy.  In some cases where glucose is particularly unstable, insulin replacement therapy is not enough and transplant options must be considered. One such option, islet transplantation, is a still emerging as a treatment but is now clinically adopted in the UK for patients with recurrent severe hypoglycaemia. However, the need for life-long immunosuppression and a high tissue requirement due to a highly variable nature of isolated islets have limited its adoption for the widespread treatment of patients with Type 1 diabetes. The emergence of 3-D bioprinting provides us with an opportunity to evaluate a novel approach to islet transplantation with the potential to improve outcomes by defining an ideal product specification for islet micro-tissue products.

The aim of this project is to develop a functional islet micro-tissue(s) by 3-D printing viable islet cells and to assess the potential this would have in terms of re-defining the supply chain for regenerative approaches to the treatment of diabetes. The research will examine the use of bioprinting techniques to package β-cells from a cell line (MIN6) into micro-tissues in order to establish that functional islet structures can be created without dramatically impacting the cells viability and function. The proposed bioprinting approach will be to (i) incorporate cells into an ECM-like hydrogel as a “bioink”, (ii) deposit the bioink into an array of drops, and (iii) subsequently culture the droplets to create spherical micro-tissues.


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