Research of Type 1 Diabetes

3D Bio-Printed Bionic Pancreas

Consortion in Poland moves closer to proving the concept

Michał Wszoła MD, PhD, and Chairman of the Bionic Consortium in Poland

We spoke with Michał Wszoła MD, PhD about the 3D Bio-Printed Bionic Pancreas work being done with his team and Bionic Consortium in Poland. See www.fundacjabirn.pl

Problem being Addressed

Pancreatic or pancreatic islet transplantation is the only method to cure T1D. However, these transplants are difficult, there is a shortage of organs for transplantation, and patients risk surgical complications and require chronic immunosuppression.  

In Poland, about 10,000 people should qualify for this type of transplant, but only 40 operations per year are performed nationally. The main limitation is the shortage of organs for transplantation.

Bionic Consortium Goals

The goal of the Bionic Consortium is to build a functional (bionic) pancreas that is “tailor-made” from each patient’s stem cells, which will eliminate the risk of rejection, and prevent the development of secondary complications, which are the causes of most deaths.

Method

The bionic pancreas is an organ built of biological elements, including stem cells collected from the patient to eliminate the need for immunosuppression. The innovation of the project is to bio-print a 3D bio-scaffolding using live pancreatic islets.  The collected cells are multiplied and converted into alpha and beta cells, producing glucagon and insulin.

The form factor of the bionic pancreas is a patch that is created via this specialized 3D sterile printer.  The finished “pancreas” contains not only scaffolding elements but also living cells and pancreatic islets along with the vascular system to enable proper functioning.

Test of a bio-printed patch containing bio-ink, islets, and blood vessels in an organic scaffold; Eventually this work will lead to bio-printing of a complete pancreas

An advantage of this novel design is that after transplanting previously isolated stem cells from adipose tissue and programming them in such a way that they are able to secrete insulin and glucagon they will become a completely new type of cells. It will be an autologous transplant.

The innovation of the bionic pancreas is based on the application of a unique composition of bio-ink, containing living cells and pancreatic islets. Intensive implementation and patent development are in progress in the laboratory as well as ongoing research to carry out a bio-printing test of a bionic organ.

The team at Foundation of Research and Science Development — www.fundacjabirn.pl

Next Steps

The Foundation plans to create a modern research base enabling the implementation of new projects related to bioprinting of tissue and whole organs.

The main goal is to bio-print a complete pancreas.  This involves a number of steps.

Today, after printing, the material is placed in a custom developed bioreactor for one week to allow maturing of the printed vascular structures.

Starting this April, the team will transplant into NOD mice partial organs with up to 1mm in vascular dimensions.  Testing will then evaluate the extent of further micro-vascularization. Later this year, this transplant focus will move onto pigs.  

The foundation’s work with bio-printing is a new concept in science.  

The team is quite excited about the potential and seeks business partners to exploit commercial opportunities.   The idea of organizing a charity auction was born to give publicity to the concept and to interest business people in its commercial development.

Among the people who plan to attend are Erik Gatenholm, Co-Founder and CEO and Hector Martinez, CTO/Co-founder of Cellink — see https://cellink.com/.  Anyone who is interested in becoming a commercial partner should contact Michal Wszoła directly at this email.

The auction will sell artistic photographs of pancreatic islets taken with a fluorescent microscope in the Foundation’s laboratory. These images are an unconventional and innovative combination of science and art which celebrate the achievements of Polish scientists and their opportunities to advance modern medicine. 

Martin is the Founder of SelfRx Media and editor-in-chief of Insulin Nation. He's a passionate about sharing knowledge with those affected by Diabetes.

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