Manuela Gomes, Associate Professor of 3B's Research Group, I3Bs, University of Minho and President of I3Bs Institute, has been attibutted an ERC Proof of Concept grant, entitled BioCHIPS, with the main objetive of biofabricating microfluidic CHIPS based on self assembling of Cellulose Nanocrystals (CNCs) that recreate with very high fidelity the hierarchical fibrillar structure of human tissues ECM, thus providing a suitable biomimetic platform for organ/tissue-on-a-chip applications.
Biochips proposes an innovative bottom-up strategy to directly fabricate cell-laden devices that recreate the unique biophysical cues from the native fibrillar ECMs and allow the design of bioengineered microtissues with arbitrary geometries. The proposed platform combines the concepts of matrix-assisted 3D free-form bioprinting with the controlled self-assembly of colloidal cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) to fabricate cell-laden constructs embedded within its own fibrillar CNC hydrogel device. The proposed platform can array multiple independent single organ models in a high-throughput manner (number will depend on the desired model complexity and well plate used) or link multiple tissue/organ models together with microfluidic circuits that can be user-defined on their CAD designs.
The BioCHIPS system enables high-resolution printing of complex and perfusable multicellular constructs without separating membranes or plastic barriers, where cells can interact through signaling gradients created by compartmentalization in a bioinspired fibrillar matrix, and supporting their long-term culture. In addition to optical transparency for real time monitoring, CNCs hydrogels can be bioorthogonally digested to release the embedded constructs for post-bioprinting analysis and processing, which is a crucial advantage in organ/tissue-on-chip applications. Beyond the fabrication of perfusable microfluidic channels and cell-laden chambers for the development of 3D microphysiological systems as in vitro models, the intrinsic characteristics of this bioinspired platform, further enables its scale up to produce tissue engineered constructs within its own bioreactor for in vitro maturation and biological tests at higher scales.
The ERC Proof of Concept grant funds these objetives and idea with a budget of 150.000,00 Euros for a period of 18 months.
For more details on the awardees and the ERC Proof of Concept, please check link to the official Press Release from ERC: https://erc.europa.eu/news/erc-2021-proof-of-concept-grants-results