IBN’s 3D Tissue Engineering Looks To Improve Organ Transplants
Researchers at Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) have developed a simple method of organizing cells and their microenvironments in hydrogel fibers. Their unique technology provides a feasible template for assembling complex structures, such as liver and fat tissues.
According to Dr Andrew Wan, IBN Team Leader and Principal Research Scientist, the success of organ transplants rely on the ability of the new organ rapidly integrate with the patient’s circulatory system. “This [integration] is essential for the survival of cells within the implant, as it would ensure timely access to oxygen and essential nutrients, as well as the removal of metabolic waste products,” he said.
are known to promote rapid vascular integration with the host. In the past, the best way to promote rapid vascular integration was through pre-vascularization, placement of tissues designed with pre-formed vascular networks. Traditionally, this has been achieved by seeding or encapsulating endothelial cells which line the interior surfaces of blood vessels, with other cell types.
However, this self-assembly method can be a slow process or lead to a non-uniform network of vessels within the tissue. The new option is to use 3D co-patterning of endothelial cells with other cell types in a hydrogel. This allows large concentrations of endothelial cells to be positioned in specific regions within the tissue, leaving the rest of the construct available for other cell types, according to the IBN researchers. Another benefit is the hydrogel also acts as a reservoir of nutrients for the encapsulated cells.
However, co-patterning multiple cell types within a hydrogel has proven difficult via micromolding and organ printing techniques. They are also limited by slow cell assembly, and other complications.
To overcome today’s 3D limitations, IBN researchers used a novel cell patterning technology called “interfacial polyelectrolyte complexation (IPC) fiber assembly.” This technique produces cell-laden hydrogel fibers under aqueous conditions at room temperature.
Unlike other methods, IBN’s patented technique allows researchers to incorporate different cell types separately into different fibers. In turn, these cell-laden fibers may then be assembled into more complex constructs with hierarchical tissue structures.
IBN researchers are also able to tailor the microenvironment for each cell type for optimal functionality by incorporating the appropriate factors, e.g. proteins, into the fibers. Using IPC fiber assembly, the researchers have engineered an endothelial vessel network, as well as cell-patterned fat and liver tissue constructs, which have successfully integrated with the host circulatory system in a mouse model and produced vascularized tissues.
The IBN researchers are now working on applying and further developing their technology toward engineering functional tissues and clinical applications.
IBN's innovative research is aimed at creating new knowledge and intellectual properties in the emerging fields of bioengineering and nanotechnology to attract top-notch researchers and business partners to Singapore. Since 2003, IBN researchers have published over 880 papers in leading journals.
Aside from nanomedicine and tissue engineering, IBN’s research activities are focused on biodevices, green chemistry and green energy.