University of Wollongong's PICT 3D bioprinter could revolutionize Type 1 diabetes treatment

Australia’s University of Wollongong (UOW) is quickly becoming a pioneer in 3D bioprinting technologies. Recently, the university unveiled a new customized 3D bioprinter which has the potential to drastically improve treatment for patients with Type 1 diabetes.

The innovative system, named the Pancreatic Islet Cell Transplantation (PICT) 3D bioprinter, was recently presented to Peter Malinauskas, the South Australian Minister for Health, who in turn has given it to the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) for use.

With this announcement, RAH has become the first hospital in Australia (and likely the world) to install the PICT 3D bioprinter for diabetes treatment research.

According to the UOW, the 3D bioprinter is capable of depositing a special bioink (which contains insulin-producing islet cells) into a transplantable 3D printed scaffold structure. This method could improve on the existing process of implanting islet cells from human donors to treat serious Type 1 diabetes cases because it can reportedly decrease the risk of cell rejection in the recipient’s body.

“The PICT Printer will allow us to make customized organs, mixing donor with recipient cells in a unique 3 dimensional way to provide completely new composite ‘organoids’ for experimental transplantation,” explained Professor Toby Coates from the ROH.

Donor islet cells, which are derived from the pancreas, can help diabetes patients to regain the ability to produce insulin, which is necessary for self-regulating blood sugar levels. Like with most transplant processes today, however, there is always the risk of the recipient’s body rejecting the donor cells.

With the PICT 3D bioprinter, however, medical engineers could effectively print implantable scaffolds with better integration rates because they can include both the donor’s insulin-producing cells and the recipient’s own cells. Additionally, because the bioprinter can print multiple cell types, the scaffolds can also contain endothelial cells, which help to vascularize the grafted islet cells.

Housed at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the PICT bioprinter will be used by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Sciences (ACES), which is led by Professor Gordon Wallace. Thanks to a grant from the Australian Research Council’s Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) program, ACES will be able to further develop the 3D bioprinter for medical applications.

“ACES at the University of Wollongong has built a collaborative clinical research network that enables us to tackle big clinical challenges and deliver practical solutions using 3D bioprinting,” commented Professor Wallace.

“In collaboration with Professor Toby Coates’ team at Royal Adelaide Hospital, we plan to improve the effectiveness of islet cell transplants by encapsulating donated islet cells in a 3D printed structure, to protect them during and after transplantation,” he added.

Recently, the University of Wollongong was awarded an ARC grant of A$347,000 for the establishment a state-of-the-art 3D bioprinting facility.

Dec 11, 2017

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