3D cell printing for scalable, in-vitro production of functional, microencapsulated pancreatic islets for the treatment of type I diabetes mellitus

University of Strathclyde

Past award

Student: Dirk-Jan Cornelissen

Year Award Started: 2014

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a life-threatening insulin-deficiency disease caused by the loss of beta cells in the pancreas. It usually is first diagnosed in children or young adults, and lasts a lifetime. In Scotland, there are 210,000 people diagnosed with diabetes, with 10% being T1D patients. The direct cost to the NHS of T1D is £1 billion per year with an indirect cost around £0.9 billion per year. Islet transplantation for T1D is an established clinical therapy with excellent outcomes. It involves extracting islet cells (mainly made of beta cells) from the pancreas of a deceased donor and transplanting them to a T1D patient. However, this treatment method is limited by the availability of human islets and the need for toxic chemical immunosuppression to minimise organ rejection. Currently, 4 donated human pancreases are needed to extract sufficient islets in order to treat one T1D patient. To overcome this acute shortage of pancreatic islets for transplantation, this PhD project aims to develop a high-throughput bioprinting technology to manufacture transplantable, insulin-secreting artificial islets from renewable stem cell sources. Additionally, by encapsulating islets with protective biomaterials, this new technique may potentially eliminate the need of immunosuppression and will address critical shortages in the supply of islets for transplantation purposes.

Research area: Metabolic or endocrine conditions


Dr Will Shu
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Mr John Casey
Division of Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh
Professor Helen Grant
Department of Biomedical Engineering

Censo Biotechnologies