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REFINE Project article on Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine
Communications 12.04.2022

REFINE Project article on Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine

Development of scaffold-free vascularized pancreatic beta-islets in vitro models by the anchoring of cell lines to a bioligand-functionalized gelatine substrate


Bioengineered pancreatic β-islets have been widely advocated for the research and treatment of diabetes by offering both suitable cell culture models for the study of the pathology and the testing of new drugs and a therapy in those patients no longer responding to insulin administration and as an alternative to the shortage of donors for organ and islet transplantation. Unlike most of the studies published so far where pancreatic islets of pancreatic β-cells are encapsulated in hydrogels, this study demonstrate the formation of bioengineered pancreatic islets through cell anchoring to a gelatine-based biomaterial, PhenoDrive-Y, able to mimic the basement membrane of tissues. Through simple culture conditions, PhenoDrive-Y led human pancreatic β-cell lines and human umbilical endothelial cell lines to form organized structures closely resembling the natural vascularized pancreatic islets. When compared to gelatine, the cultures in presence of PhenoDrive-Y show higher degree of organization in tissue-like structures, a more pronounced endothelial sprouting and higher expression of typical cell markers. Noticeably, when challenged by hyperglycaemic conditions, the cells embedded in the PhenoDrive-Y assembled spheroids responded with higher levels of insulin production. In conclusion, the present work demonstrates the potential of PhenoDrive-Y as substrate for the development of bioengineered vascularized pancreatic islets and to be particularly suitable as a model for in vitro studies and testing of new therapeutics.

Published online on: Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine, editor Springer Nature.