University of Bayreuth, Press release No. 140/2021, 8 October 2021
On our way to the production of artificial heart tissue: Bayreuth research at Deutsches Museum Nuremberg
At the recently opened Deutsches Museum Nuremberg, the University of Bayreuth offers insights into its expertise in the field of biofabrication involving unique materials, for example spider silk. Research led by Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheibel at the Biomaterials research group combines natural growth processes and technical systems with the aim of specifically rebuilding damaged tissue in organs, skin, nerves, and tendons. Consequently, in the "Body & Mind" exhibition area, one of the exhibits is a bioreactor from the Department of Biomaterials that simulates the cultivation of heart muscle tissue.
For the regeneration of natural tissue, the Bayreuth researchers use bio-inks with which tissue-like structures can be 3D printed. These consist of two components: a scaffold unique in the world made of biotechnologically produced spider silk proteins and encapsulated living cells. These are able to proliferate along the scaffold structures so that new functional tissue gradually emerges.
In cooperation with a research team at FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg led by Prof. Dr Felix Engel, the Bayreuth scientists are currently working on the possibility of producing functional heart tissue using 3D bioprinting. A 3D printer that produces the necessary scaffold structures is therefore also among the exhibits. The artificial tissue produced will one day be used in clinical medicine, among other things, to compensate for example for the loss of heart muscle cells due to disease. Using the same principle, it will then also be possible to produce artificial tissue from tendons, nerves, and skin. Accompanying microscope images of muscle cells and short film sequences showing contracting muscle cells on the scaffold structures make it clear to museum visitors that clinical applications of this research work could soon be within reach. "The new Deutsches Museum Nuremberg sees itself as a museum of the future that shows the public particularly innovative technologies reaching far into the future. It is therefore an ideal place to draw attention to the enormous potential of biofabrication," says Scheibel.
The University of Bayreuth is the first and only provider to have brought the topic of "biofabrication" to the international university platform edX. The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) "Biomaterials and Biofabrication: Design, Engineering & Innovation" is aimed at people specifically interested in materials research in the medical field, but also at people with no prior knowledge who wish to expand their knowledge of biomaterials, biomedical engineering, additive manufacturing, and tissue engineering, and to gain insights into the future of biofabrication.
Biofabrication research at the University of Bayreuth is interdisciplinary: Biotechnology, engineering sciences, material sciences, polymer chemistry, and cell biology are all involved. The Keylab "Adaptive Biomanufacturing" of the Bavarian Polymer Institute (BPI) supports this work with state-of-the-art 3D processing as well as analytical microscopy technology. The Universities of Bayreuth, Erlangen-Nuremberg, and Würzburg have joined forces in the Transregio Collaborative Research Centre TRR225 "From the fundamentals of biofabrication to functional tissue models" to form a powerful network. The research work on heart muscle tissue exhibited in the museum is one of the fruits of this cooperation.