Bioconstructs present a unique opportunity to create platforms that can co-localize therapies as well as create microenvironments required for cells to optimally function. Our research has been developing novel bioscaffolds that are specifically designed to accommodate cellular therapies. These constructs can be functionalized to allow them to support and restore the bioenergetic profile of transplanted cells, as well as provide these cells with nutrients and oxygen while also facilitating their engraftment and revascularization into the host tissue.
While whole organ pancreas transplantation is an effective approach to restore physiological control of blood glucose levels in diabetic patients, it is a major surgical procedure and is rarely indicated. An alternative is islet transplantation, which is a type of cell therapy transplantation. Here, islets are extracted from a donor pancreas and then minimally invasively administered into the liver of diabetic patients; with the potential in the future to substitute islets for stem cell-derived beta cells that can secrete insulin. However, the majority of islets are lost immediately following their transplantation (failure of engraftment) due to inflammation or nutrient deprivation.
Our lab has been developing bioconstructs that can better re-create the correct physiological microenvironment to support pancreatic islets (and other cellular therapies). We have been developing biocompatible three-dimensional (3D) bioscaffolds with macroporous geometries to accommodate islets and then functionalizing these bioscaffolds with oxygen-generating biomaterials so that transplanted islets can have a steady supply of oxygen until they can establish their own
own blood supply. In addition, we have also developed platforms, which can release anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation at the site of bioscaffold implantation.