Improving the way tissue grown in the lab can be generated and organized from cells is the focus of new research from the University of Queensland.
Dr. Mark Allenby of UQ’s School of Chemical Engineering wants to improve the manufacturing process for future agricultural, pharmaceutical and medical products and reduce costs by designing more robust and scalable cell culture platforms.
The team will explore how to shape the formation of lab-grown tissues by 3D printing dynamic structures that control cell behavior, thanks to an early career research award from the Australian Research Council (ARC).
Many industries rely on cell cultures to develop products, whether it’s making beer during the fermentation process, creating antibodies for vaccine production, or designing transplants and medical implants. .
The problem is that cell cultures are grown in the laboratory by placing the cells in a large tub of liquid where they are diluted and distributed far apart.
This is not what happens naturally in the body, where cells interact closely with each other to support growth.
A small amount of tissue grown in the lab would require a football field equivalent to cell culture flasks and thousands of gallons of cell culture medium costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So if we could culture cells in a controlled manner at the tissue densities at which they naturally grow, it would have profound impacts on biomanufacturing, including cost. »
Dr Mark Allenby of the UQ School of Chemical Engineering
Dr Allenby said his recent work on developing better cell cultures to produce red blood cells for blood transfusion has proven the value of the concept.
“We found that by growing our cell cultures at tissue densities, we achieved 100 times the cost-effectiveness per red blood cell produced.”
He said this project will explore how to control and engineer tissue formation on a micro-scale – using micro-containment through 3D printing.
“Through collaborators at QUT, we have developed technologies to produce tiny chambers that can confine cell growth to certain shapes and geometries – this will allow us to examine the mechanical forces of confinement of cell growth and how they shape the way tissue forms over time,” he said.
“We will then go to scale, leveraging the power of creating nutrient gradients to produce patterns and different tissue types at scale.
“We will also explore how to make large vascular tissues in a physiologically meaningful way.”
The three-year project, led by the Biomimetic Systems Engineering Laboratory, includes two PhD positions.
The University of Queensland