Aspect Biosystems and JDRF to Develop 3D Bio-Printed Treatment for Diabetes

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Canadian 3D bioprinting company Aspect Biosystems has unveiled a new partnership with international diabetes research and advocacy organization JDRF.

As part of the agreement, JDRF has agreed to support Aspect Biosystems’ bid to create new 3D bioprinted tissues capable of treating people with type 1 diabetes. Concretely, the group will bring its expertise on the disease and his address book to the project, with the aim of accelerating his partner’s plans to give diabetics “insulin independence”.

“Together with JDRF, we are aligned with the mission of developing a cure for the millions of patients worldwide who are affected by type 1 diabetes,” said Tamer Mohamed, CEO of Aspect Biosystems. “This partnership will help advance our cutting-edge pancreatic tissue program and bring us closer to human trials.”

Aspect Biosystems’ RX1 Bioprinter microfluidic printheads in action. Photo via Aspect Biosystems.

Aspect Biosystems RX1 Platform

Since its inception in 2013, Aspect Biosystems has aimed to combine microfluidics and 3D bioprinting, as a means to advance medical research and develop unique therapies for diseases. One of the main ways the company has sought to achieve this goal is through its RX1 bioprinter, a system capable of switching between different cell types on the fly to enable the creation of heterogeneous tissues.

Over the past nine years, Aspect Biosystems has garnered significant support for its technology, closing a $20 million Series A funding round in early 2020, as well as building partnerships designed to deploy it in applications. therapies.

Following its capital raise, for example, the company launched a 3D bioprinting grants program, in which labs were encouraged to apply for access to its RX1 system. At the time, it was said that the initiative would see two research groups get a free bio-printer, a starter kit and all the training needed to keep them running for six months.

In the past, Aspect Biosystems has also partnered with a team from Maastricht University, to develop viable 3D bioprinted kidney tissue for medical testing purposes, and was selected to contribute to a research project $2.2 million cancer fund, which has seen him work with Merck and GSK, in addition to McGill University’s Goodman Cancer Research Centre.

Aspect Biosystems RX1 Bioprinter.  Image via Aspect Biosystems.
Aspect Biosystems RX1 Bioprinter. Image via Aspect Biosystems.

Bio-printing a cure for diabetes

Unlike type 2 diabetes, the development of the type 1 variant is not thought to be related to age or weight, and it is theorized that it is actually caused by an autoimmune reaction in which the body attacks itself. As such, patients often develop the disease through no fault of their own, and with its triggers still not fully understood, five million Americans are predicted to be diagnosed with it by 2050.

From what we know, type 1 diabetes essentially inhibits patients’ ability to generate enough insulin to control blood sugar levels in their bloodstream. This, in turn, can cause sufferers to develop fatigue, weight loss, and blurred vision, and if left untreated, it can also lead to long-term damage to blood vessels, nerves or organs.

In order to manage their blood sugar levels, people with diabetes currently have to administer insulin by pump or injection, which can be an invasive task. Although a number of alternative treatments are in R&D, with Readily3D even using a 3D bio-printed pancreas to test their effectiveness, none have yet been widely deployed.

However, thanks to its recently announced collaboration with JDRF, Aspect Biosystems is now trying to change that, accelerating the development of a 3D-printed tissue therapy for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. exactly how the treatment will work, it is a cell-based implant that works to repair the functions of damaged organs, thus rendering insulin injections to patients obsolete.

For its part, JDRF has pledged not only to provide funding for the project, but also its “strategic support”, as part of a process that will allow Aspect Biosystems to access the 52 years of expertise on the partner’s diabetes, helping to advance his future research.

“For more than 20 years, JDRF has been a leader in tissue cell therapy research for type 1 diabetes,” said Esther Latres, JDRF Assistant Vice President of Research. “This funding partnership with Aspect Biosystems will support and continue scientific advances in the field and undeniably bring us closer to finding a cure.”

The 3D bio-printed mini pancreas.  Image via EPFL / A. Herzog.
EPFL has created Readily3D’s 3D bio-printed mini pancreas. Image via EPFL/A. Herzog.

Advances in 3D printed therapies

Using not only 3D bioprinting but also conventional 3D printing, researchers continue to make progress in developing cures for all sorts of different diseases. Scientists at North Carolina State University, for example, have succeeded in creating optimized 3D-printed radiation antennae that cancer patients can wear during breast hyperthermia procedures.

In the world of 3D bioprinting, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Duke University and Texas A&M have created the first-ever living aneurysm in vitro. By operating on the cell mass outside the body, observing how it heals and entering their results into computer models, the team believe it may be possible to develop patient-specific aneurysm treatments.

Similarly, in 2020, a group of American and German researchers proposed a 3D bioprinted glioblastoma model, with the potential to further physicians’ understanding of cancer growth. After creating their vascularized tumor from human brain cells and biomaterials, the scientists were able to grow it and attempt to treat it, while tracking the results using 3D imaging techniques.

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The featured image shows the Aspect Biosystems RX1 Bioprinter microfluidic printheads in action. Photo via Aspect Biosystems.

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