Researchers create world’s first 3D BIONIC pancreas

Although the bionic does not present a digestive exocrine function as in a real pancreas, it is assumed that in the future, it may restore insulin production in the body of a diabetic patient. Fundacja Badań i Rozwoju Nauki

The world’s first bionic pancreas with blood vessels has been printed in Poland using a special 3D bio-printer.

Created by Dr. Michał Wszoła and researchers from the Foundation of Research and Science, the 3D printed pancreases consist exclusively of pancreatic islets.

Created by Dr. Michał Wszoła and researchers from the Foundation of Research and Science, the 3D printed pancreases consist exclusively of pancreatic islets.Kalbar/TFN

Dr. Wszoła explained that the human pancreas produces pancreatic juice to aid in digestion. This organ is surrounded by one million pancreatic islets, small balls consisting of alpha and beta cells producing insulin and glucagon. People with diabetes have damaged pancreatic islets, which means they do not have insulin and glucagon cells. 

"Only the pancreatic juice is produced, so we have to use insulin injections, thus we decided to create an organ that will produce insulin and glucagon based on alpha and beta cells," Wszoła told PAP.

Thanks to this major discovery, patients will be able to receive a brand new pancreas and the insulin injection therapy will not be necessary anymore.Fundacja Badań i Rozwoju Nauki

Although it does not present a digestive exocrine function as in a real pancreas, it is assumed that in the future, it may restore insulin production in the body of a diabetic patient. Currently, this is possible only by injecting this hormone with a suitable feeder or with an insulin pump.

The researchers have collected pancreatic islets from animals and mixed them with bio-inks, a substance with a composition that allows the survival of these cells. The 3D bio-printer arranges them spatially in the bio-reactor in accordance with model previously developed thanks to a computer-assisted method. At the same time, using a second syringe, the device prints blood vessels through which the blood will flow in the organ.

"No one has yet founded a solid organ with full vascularisation," Wszoła noted. Thanks to this major discovery, patients will be able to receive a brand new pancreas and the insulin injection therapy will not be necessary anymore.

In April, scientists from the foundation plan to implant the printed pancreas islets in mice in order to test their behaviour in a living organism. In October 2019, the treatment will be tested on pigs.Kalbar/TFN

In April, scientists from the foundation plan to implant the printed pancreas islets in mice in order to test their behaviour in a living organism. In October 2019, the treatment will be tested on pigs.

The 3D printed bionic pancreas project, led by the Foundation of Research and Science, is financed by the National Centre for Research and Development within the scope of the STRATEGMED III programme.