Patients with osteoarthritis, a joint disease affecting cartilage and bone, that leads to reduced mobility and pain, could benefit from regenerative medicine. It could also help patients with liver diseases, as the shortage of donor livers for transplantation has driven the field to look for alternative solutions.
Regenerative medicine focuses on the development of new treatments to repair or regenerate diseased tissues and organs, such as cartilage, bone or liver, to restore function and improve patients’ quality of life.
The Regenerative Medicine Medical Delta program follows two tracks. The first focuses on reconstructing cartilage and bone defects, the second focuses on disease models.
Reconstruction: creating complex tissue constructs
4D printing is a new technology developed at TU Delft. Flat objects can fold into 3D objects over time when stimulated by pH, light, temperature or cells – think of origami structures. This technique will be used to create complex tissue constructs to direct cell behavior. Using this advanced technology together with stem cell technology, the researchers are building a proof-of- principle cartilage-bone unit to repair defects with a biological implant.
Disease models: mimicking diseases
Disease models are used to mimic a disease as precisely as possible in a laboratory environment by putting together cells to construct complex tissues. In this program, induced pluripotent stem cells will be used. These are stem cells that can differentiate into all different cell types – for example, a cartilage cell or liver cell.
The disease models will be used to better understand diseases. Using the models, medication can be screened, thereby speeding up the quest for new pharmacological treatments.
According to Gerjo van Osch, professor of Connective Tissue Regeneration in the Departments of Orthopaedics and Otorhinolaryngology at Erasmus MC, repairing defects or having biological implants instead of metal ones would be an improvement.
However, this program aims to develop disease models in such a way that diseases can be treated at an early stage or even be prevented, so patients wouldn’t need an implant at all.
Regenerative medicine is a multidisciplinary field in which medicine, biology and engineering provide solutions jointly. The Medical Delta region is an ideal habitat in which to stimulate these developments. This program combines unique 4D-printing technology developed in Delft with strong knowledge on stem cells, hydrogels and disease models in Rotterdam and Leiden. This collaboration brings the developments in the individually strong research groups to a higher level.