Transplantation of pancreatic islets is a promising strategy to alleviate the unstable blood-glucose control that some patients with diabetes type 1 exhibit and has seen many advances over the years. Protection of transplanted islets from the immune system can be accomplished by encapsulation within a hydrogel, the most investigated of which is alginate. In this study, islet encapsulation is combined with 3D extrusion bioprinting, an additive manufacturing method which enables the fabrication of 3D structures with a precise geometry to produce macroporous hydrogel constructs with embedded islets. Using a plottable hydrogel blend consisting of clinically approved ultrapure alginate and methylcellulose (Alg/MC) enables encapsulating pancreatic islets in macroporous 3D hydrogel constructs of defined geometry while retaining their viability, morphology, and functionality. Diffusion of glucose and insulin in the Alg/MC hydrogel is comparable to diffusion in plain alginate; the embedded islets continuously produce insulin and glucagon throughout the observation and still react to glucose stimulation albeit to a lesser degree than control islets.
Keywords: 3D bioprinting; alginate; diabetes; insulin; macroporous; pancreatic islet.
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