Apr 11, 2017 | By Benedict

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has pumped $6.25 million into the new Center for Engineering Complex Tissues (CECT), a tissue engineering and 3D bioprinting lab that will be run by Rice University, the University of Maryland, and Wake Forest University starting April 15.

CICT partners (clockwise from top left) Wake Forest University, the University of Maryland, Rice University

When it comes to groundbreaking 3D bioprinting and tissue engineering research, two heads are often better than one—make that three, and you’re really going somewhere. That could be the thought process behind a new $6.25 million NIH grant awarded to bioengineers at Rice University, the University of Maryland, and Wake Forest University, three universities working in tandem to establish the Center for Engineering Complex Tissues. There, a community of surgeons, biomaterials experts, and regenerative medicine engineers will develop new tissue engineering technologies, including advanced 3D bioprinting techniques, that could vastly improve modern medicine.

CECT, which will begin operations on April 15, will focus on tissue engineering, otherwise known as regenerative medicine, a field of biomedical study that focuses on the body's natural recuperative capabilities. The practice generally combines cells, biologically active molecules, and biodegradable templates to create functional tissues which can be grafted onto damaged human body parts, encouraging the natural bodily process of repair. In recent years, 3D printing and bioprinting has contributed massively to the advancement of tissue engineering.

CECT will pay particular attention to these modern 3D printing and bioprinting technologies that can be used to in regenerative medicine and biomedical device development. However, each university will specialize in a particular discipline: Maryland will focus on 3D printed bioreactors for cell cultures, Wake Forest will lead the efforts on 3D bioprinting patterning for cell-laden constructs, while Rice will concentrate on bioprinting for complex scaffold fabrication. The universities will, however, work together closely to share information and advance each other’s work in any way they can.

Complementing the three universities’ individual research projects will be six additional collaborative projects and six service projects that will see center experts working with other leading researchers across the country. The University of Maryland’s John Fisher commented that “anyone in the world will have the opportunity” to potentially work at CECT laboratories, with a “two-way transfer of science" expected to benefit all contributing parties and their research into the repair of bone, tissue, and organ defects.

Wake Forest University researchers develop a 3D printed "beating" heart cell in 2015

Collaborative projects that have already been arranged involve Harvard University, the Mayo Clinic, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Toronto. Service projects, on the other hand, will allow CECT technologies to be used by a larger number of researchers, benefitting more projects in the field of 3D bioprinting and tissue engineering. These service projects will involve Maryland, Columbia University, Emory University, Georgia Tech, Stanford University, Texas A&M University, and Synthasome Inc.

Rice’s Antonios Mikos, director of CECT, believes that the formation of the new center will benefit his university in important ways, while also serving to facilitate important scientific research that could greatly benefit human lives. “CECT establishes Rice as a premier institution in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine," he said. “We have made tremendous progress alongside our colleagues at the Texas Medical Center. The CECT is a wonderful recognition of all of our collaborative efforts and presents an exciting beginning as we continue to work as a community on new technologies to improve health care.”

“Many of today’s most transformative advancements in human health came to life because leaders in STEM worked collaboratively to share knowledge, ideas, and creative vision,” commented Darryll J. Pines, Dean of the University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering. “CECT will play a key role in bringing together innovators from a variety of science and engineering disciplines who are working to address a critical health need.”

“The great education opportunity the center allows is a tremendous draw for people to come here and learn about the techniques Rice is working on,” Mikos added. “By helping the community develop this expertise, we will continue to build the Advances in Tissue Engineering continuing-education course Rice has been committed to for more than 25 years.”

CECT was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a Biomedical Technology Resource Center (BTRC).

 

 

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