Tissue Engineering, Nanotechnology and Biomaterials
DRI researchers are using engineering principles to create new mini-organs that mimic the native pancreas and provide vital nutrients, protective agent and physical support needed for long-term islet function.
- Dr. Norma Kenyon, senior scientist at the DRI, will report on the results of a study that tested the use of a porous silicone scaffold in an alternative transplant site. The scaffolds, created by Dr. Cherie Stabler and her tissue engineering team at the DRI, are designed to provide ample spacing for optimal nutrient delivery as well as physical support and protection for the islets. Her team loaded islets into the bioengineered scaffolds and implanted the device into a “pocket” they created from the recipient’s omentum, a natural, apron-like covering of the abdomen., The device within the new site allowed islets to function long-term. Building upon these findings and the results of their work (published in Diabetes) showing the enhanced survival and function of islets when co-transplanted with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), the group has initiated new studies incorporating MSCs into the biohybrid device in the alternative site. This approach offers a great potential to avoid the liver as a transplant site while providing a safer and more conducive environment for optimal insulin production.
- In a related study, Dr. Cherie Stabler, Director of the Tissue Engineering Laboratory at the DRI, will report on the results of a study showing the three-dimensional, bioengineered scaffold offers an excellent support structure for insulin-producing cells. The scaffold makes it more possible than ever for researchers to consider alternate sites for the implantation of insulin-producing cells.
- We know oxygen is vital to islet health. Dr. Stabler will also report on the results of a study describing how a new oxygen-generating biomaterial can be used to deliver oxygen to newly transplanted cells within the scaffold structure.
- To enhance oxygen delivery and further protect islets, DRI researchers are studying a number of ways to coat transplanted insulin-producing cells. Dr. Alice Tomei has devised a means to "shrink-wrap" cells with a protective layer that literally conforms to the size and shape of each cell. At the conference, Dr. Tomei will report on the results of a study on the coating polymers used to promote long-term islet viability. In related research, Dr. Cherie Stabler will report on a promising approach to coat and protect islets using nano-scale technology .