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SFB/TRR 225 ‘From the fundamentals of biofabrication towards functional tissue models’

Content of the SFB/TRR 225 is the exploration of the fundamentals of biofabrication and its systematic exploitation with the aim and vision to generate functional human tissue models (12-year perspective).

Biofabrication is defined as the use of automated 3D printing processes to produce hierarchical cell-material constructs in a spatial arrangement that allows maturation into tissue models with functional properties. This holds the possibility of automated production of functional tissue models that would be invaluable as animal test replacements, for pharmaceutical and cancer research, and as regenerative therapy options.

The first funding period (1st FP) of the TRR225 was mainly focused on the development of materials and processes that enable high cell survival in the printing process. With the growing number of options to print living cells, the post-fabrication behavior of the cells in the printed constructs has become an increasing focus. To date, however, causal relationships between fabrication conditions and cell behavior beyond survival, such as proliferation, remain largely unclear. Therefore, in the 2nd FP, the TRR225 will focus on intensifying the interlinking of material and method development with the construction of tissue models, which was developed in the 1st FP. Thereby, the central questions move from the printability optimization of the bio-inks (1st FP) to the post-fabrication behavior of the cells in the bio-fabricates, the assurance of long-term cell survival (supply) as well as the construction of tissue models and material and process design focused on the respective application.

The TRR225 continues to be structured into the three established project areas A (bioinks), B (processes and methods) and C (biofabricated models) with correspondingly further developed objectives. This is to lay the foundation for the 3rd FP to focus on functional evaluation of the biofabricated models as well as the development of next generation models, for example by implementing innervation or a metabolically or (patho-)physiologically meaningful combination of established models.

The TRR225 sites had already laid a unique foundation by establishing the first two biofabrication courses and the first two professorships in biofabrication. During the 1st FP, further structure-building measures were taken, such as the creation of four new professorships and a junior research group, as well as the foundation of the interfaculty Institute for Functional Materials and Biofabrication (IFB) and the initiation of the research building Center of Polymers for Life (CPL). Together, the three sites have received Bavarian start-up funding for the formation of an excellence network (title: Cellular Hybrids), for which TRR225 is a supporting pillar. The success of the TRR225 in the 1st FP is thus also visible through these developments.