It looks like Maastricht University is rapidly becoming one of Europe’s key centers for medical 3D printing efforts. Just this month, they spearheaded the new €4.6 million PRosPERoS project for 3D printed joint implant development, while researchers from Maastricht’s Moroni lab pioneered 3D bioprinted scaffolds that control stem cell differentiation. And just last Thursday, Maastricht cardiologists showcased a 3D printed heart valve surgery simulator for educational purposes. And now, partly through the efforts of that same Moroni Lab, Maastricht University and the Brightlands Materials Center have started the biggest 3D bioprinting research program in European history. Their goal? To bring various 3D printed tissues, including bone and organ tissues, to clinical trials.

The Moroni Lab itself can already be found at the forefront of European 3D bioprinting and biofabrication efforts. The lab was founded two years ago, as part of the MERLN institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine at Maastricht University. Their roots can be actually be traced to the University of Twente in 2009, when the research group was first set up. Since then, they have grown into a key member of the Brightlands ecosystem, which is working to establish new biomedical 3D printing programs in collaboration with clinical hospital departments. The Moroni Lab is further backed by various European initiatives and linked to various international biofabrication efforts.

Many of those partners are now also involved in this gargantuan 3D printing initiative, which includes both public and private partners such as DSM, Dutch research institution TNO and the Province of Limburg. As the Maastricht team revealed, this initiative itself grew from the observation that various technological and material challenges cannot be overcome without a significant collaborative impulse. Together, they say, they can facilitate the translation of 3D printed and biofabricated products to the clinics.

Professor Lorenzo Moroni, who heads the Moroni Lab that facilitated the 3D printed scaffold successes earlier this month, says that achievement is only the beginning. “Our ambition is to bring skeletal applications in the program to clinical trials and to create a first functional working prototype for heart and kidney regeneration that can enter into pre-clinical evaluation. By doing so, we will also be able to synthesize new bioactive materials for applications ranging from skeletal to heart and kidney regeneration,” he revealed.

This new research program is mostly aimed at improving our overall understanding of the processes at the heart of different 3D bioprinting technologies, which in turn can be used to improve 3D printed results and bring them to trial. “The know-how and competences on UM side combined with the material knowledge and industrial outlook of BMC make our collaboration a perfect match. Together we can deliver solutions to the clinics. At the same time, we can contribute to industrial development and new product lines of the companies associated to BMC,” say Moroni and Marnix van Gurp, Managing Director of Brightlands. “Sustainable public-private partnerships in which academia work closely together with industry are needed to change tomorrow’s healthcare.”

Much of these efforts also rely on the Brightlands Materials Center, part of the Brightlands Chemelot Campus. Established in 2015, it houses various industrial and societal technology studies, including 3D printing. The Center was set up by the Province of Limburg and TNO, and houses numerous PhD researchers from the Eindhoven University of Technology and Maastricht University. With this new biofabrication project the Center, as well as the entire region, becomes a hotspot for 3D printing innovation.

 

 

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