Researchers use 3D bioprinting to develop a diabetes treatment 

Researchers use 3D bioprinting to develop a diabetes treatment 
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Queen’s University Belfast researchers have designed a new bandage treatment using 3D bioprinting, which could revolutionise diabetes treatment. 

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. As a result of this condition, patients can develop diabetic foot ulcers (DFU), with statistics showing that once identified, over 50% are already infected, and over 70% of cases result in lower limb amputation. Researchers have now designed a bandage treatment known as a scaffold, using 3D bioprinting to treat DFU. 

The research is published in Springer Link. 

What are diabetic foot ulcers?

Foot ulcers can occur in anyone and are a patch of broken down skin usually on the lower leg or feet. However, when blood sugar levels are high or fluctuate regularly, the skin that would normally heal may not repair itself effectively because of nerve damage. 

Individuals with diabetes are more likely to get foot ulcers because they may have reduced nerve functioning as a result of peripheral diabetic neuropathy. This means that the nerves that usually carry pain sensation to the brain from the feet do not function properly, leading to damage to the foot without realising it. 

Using 3D bioprinting to design effective treatments

The current treatment strategy to encourage the healing of DFU is complex, requiring a multi-layered approach. This causes significant clinical and economic burdens and as treatments are often unsuccessful, can lead to lower-limb amputation. 

Recent research has focussed on drug-loaded scaffolds to treat DFU. The scaffold structure, designed using 3D bioprinting is a novel carrier for cell and drug delivery that enhances wound healing. 

Professor Dimitrios Lamprou, a Professor of Biofabrication and Advanced Manufacturing at Queen’s School of Pharmacy and corresponding author, explained: “These scaffolds are like windows that enable doctors to monitor the healing constantly. This avoids needing to remove them constantly, which can provoke infection and delay the healing process. 

“The ‘frame’ has an antibiotic that helps to ‘kill’ the bacteria infection, and the ‘glass’ that can be prepared by collagen/sodium alginate can contain a growth factor to encourage cell growth. The scaffold has two molecular layers that both play an important role in healing the wound.” 

Lead author Ms Katie Glover, from the Queen’s School of Pharmacy, concluded: “Using bioprinting technology, we have developed a scaffold with suitable mechanical properties to treat the wound, which can be easily modified to the size of the wound. This provides a low-cost alternative to current DFU treatments, which could revolutionise DFU treatment, improving patient outcomes while reducing the economic burden caused by rapidly increasing patient demand as the number of people with diabetes continues to increase every year.” 


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