3D Privot is a project initiated by a German-Romanian Consortium of companies, research institutes and universities aiming to develop the necessary equipment and technologies for 3D printing a functional pancreas

Thousands of people require organ donors every day. The concept of using 3D printing with live donor stem-cells to meet this demand has been under research for the last two to three decades, with little to no advancement in practical terms. The vision of organ printing remains a vision. We wish to address underlying problems with current bio-technology to enable reproducible progress in this direction. We will focus on one particular target group, pancreatic cancer patients that undergo partial or complete pancreatectomy, as recipients of a 3D printed artificial pancreas. The intention to immediately scale towards diabetic patients is understated, as soon as the process is proven viable and functional. We will improve current base technology for sustainable bio-printing and organ creation in three levels: by developing software for defining 3D models of vascularised organs and blood slow simulation; by developing a dedicated bio-printer for beta-cell organoids with integrated incubator; and by streamlining the cell acquisition and proliferation process together with the hardware and software components, to successfully create the organoids, vascular tree and finally the artificial pancreas. The output of 3D PIVOT is the software and hardware basis for continued research in this area, and progress towards viable organ bio-printing. The outcomes are divided into components that can be exploited independently: The hardware development will be sold to companies that produce organs-on-a-chip for the pharmaceutical industry, among other bio-printing developments. The modelling software including individual patient organ vascularization and blood flow simulation will be sold to biotech companies researching in this field, and also through 3D printed plastic models used for training and simulating surgeries. These cutting edge technological advancements are valuable for the biotech industry and create economic benefit for the participants. The complete system represents a scientific advancement towards the goal of streamlining biological organ formation (virtual) and creation (3D printing) that are both viable from the biological sense, as well as procedural with a potentially large economic impact. The consortium aims to make the organ printing vision a reality, and will continue to test the created organs through animal trials and patient trials, beyond the projects lifetime.

Our approach in for successful 3D printing of a functional pancreas is to print the vascular tree using the patients’ endothelial cells, and a sugar medium to support their development. The beta cell organoids are seeded in their 3D positions according to the software modelled volume. We will generate vascular structures inspired on natural organs in which we can scale the amount of organoids in that volume to create a functional second pancreas. The 3D model will be printed in plastic with the highest resolution possible and we will test and validate it in laboratory experiments simulating blood circulation and pressure. With the knowledge that we can model a functional organ from the vascular perspective, we can better address the bio-printing challenge from the biology side. With a viable vascular structure instead of letting natural vascularization occur, we can build an almost automated process for the creation of sustainable artificial pancreas: We print the vascularization tree using endothelial cells and we scale up the amount of beta-cell organoids to be seeded in this tree in order to produce enough insulin for the given patient. The endothelial cells are treated with a hypoxia process as detailed by Bramfeldt38 to create the microvessels and intended blood vessels for the final organ. The shape of the model could be any: a cube; a sphere; egg-form; The important part is that it can be connected to the vascular system of the patient, supplied with blood without clogging, and that the beta-cells can absorb from the patients’ blood the sugar and convert it to insulin. The circulatory system of the patient would then take care of bringing nutrients and sugar to the cells, and to take the insulin to the rest of the body.

The European consortium composed by Inova DE GmbH, LTHD Corporation SRL, Advanced Simulation and Design, GmbH (ASD) and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg have initiated the 3D PIVOT project, funded within the framework of the Eurostars Programme. The project has begun in July 2018 and it will tackle the diverse and continuously growing 3D printing market with an innovative creation of a human organ model based on this technology.

Start: July 2018

Conclusion: May 2021

Funding program: The project is supported by Eurostars (E! 12021) and the national funding agencies BMBF Germany and UEFISCDI Romania.