University of Twente

PI University of Twente: Aart van Apeldoorn (currently Maastricht University)

About the University of Twente

The Mira institute for biomedical technology and technical medicine is one of the large institutes within the University of Twente with a focus on creating "top technology for patients". It comprises of several different research departments with different background and expertise of which tissue regeneration is of most importance for the DCTI project.

Relationship with DCTI

The islet research group within the department of Developmental Bioengineering, a spin-out of the tissue regeneration department, focuses on the creation of novel implantable devices for extra-hepatic islet transplantation. The goal of the group within the DCTI framework is to create the most optimal tissue-engineered islet niche and ultimately develop a clinically relevant sized implant. In order to achieve this a multidisciplinary approach is used based on a combination of several strategies involving biomaterials, scaffold design and fabrication and tissue engineering.

The group has a strong tradition in tissue engineering, biomaterials and biology and aims to use this knowledge in the field of islet transplantation. We are currently developing different scaffold types and tissue engineering strategies to find the most optimal implant configurations. In brief, we use micro thermo forming techniques for the creation of thin microwell arrays. Within these arrays, islets can be seeded and biomechanically protected to maintain their phenotype, insulin secretory function and viability.

Different approaches are used to mimic as much as possible the natural environment of beta cells. For instance, we study the possibility to create open porous structures in thin microwell arrays to optimize the transport of nutrients, oxygen and insulin and allow for vast bloodvessel ingrowth. In other studies we are creating bioactive surfaces, e.g. by using nano-patterning or comparable techniques to further enhance biomaterial-islet interaction mimicking the natural islet environment as much as possible. In parallel the use of high throughput microfluidics-based arrays are being tested using novel soft biomaterials to search for the most optimal material supporting implant function and islet survival. Finally, we also investigate the use of scaffold printing techniques (rapid prototyping) to create porous predefined three-dimensional scaffolds that consist of different layers each with its own specific biological function such as vascularization and islets maintenance.

Several different imaging modalities are used in collaboration with the other DCTI partners to track and trace islet fate before and after implantation. Ultimately, all scaffold modalities will be tested in vivo to prove their efficacy of curing type 1 diabetes.