Javier Ramón Azcón, a renowned researcher at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), has been awarded an “ERC Proof of Concept Grant” by the European Research Council (ERC). This prestigious grant aims to explore the commercial and societal potential of research projects previously funded by the ERC. Ramón’s project, named “Uniink,” focuses on revolutionizing the treatment of Type 1 diabetes through the use of cell therapy and 3D bioprinting.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the immune system attacks and destroys the β cells in the pancreas responsible for producing insulin, a hormone crucial in blood glucose regulation. Traditional insulin injections do not provide a dynamic response to glucose fluctuations, leading researchers to explore alternative treatments like cell therapy.
Cell therapy involves transplanting pancreatic islets, including insulin-producing β cells, from deceased donors. While effective, widespread use of this treatment faces challenges such as finding compatible donors and immune rejection by the recipient’s body.
Uniink introduces an innovative approach to cell therapy using 3D bioprinting. It utilizes biocompatible microspheres loaded with insulin-secreting cells that can respond to glucose signals. By encapsulating the transplanted cells, the project aims to protect them from the recipient’s immune system, potentially improving graft recovery and restoring natural glucose regulation.
The IBEC team, working alongside Anna Novials’ group at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), will evaluate Uniink’s effectiveness using mouse models. The project also includes the exploration of establishing a new company and collaborating with private partners to advance the technology towards clinical application.
Uniink has the potential to transform the treatment of Type 1 diabetes, offering new hope to patients affected by this condition. With ongoing research and promising advancements, this innovative approach could revolutionize diabetes management and improve the quality of life for individuals living with this chronic illness.
Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC)