The Automation Partnership (TAP) has announced that it is collaborating with academics on the Technology Strategy Board-funded Rapid Automated Fabrication of Tissues (Raft) project.
The Raft project aims to develop and commercialise novel technology for rapid production of 3D tissues, which have the potential to transform drug discovery and regenerative medicine.
The three-year Raft project initially aims to manufacture 3D human corneal tissue using corneal limbal stem cells, to determine if this is a viable method of producing a range of different tissue types.
Scientists on the Raft Project at University College London (UCL) will work on demonstrating preclinical proof of concept of the efficacy of these tissues for corneal regeneration.
Complex 3D tissues can be produced in less than one hour by mixing cells with collagen, casting the gel into a mould then compressing it to give a sheet with properties very similar to natural tissue.
The 3D structure provides cells with a more natural microenvironment; multiple layers with different cell types can be made with surface features that mimic the stem-cell niche and support cell growth and differentiation.
Since production of the tissues will be automated, the size, shape, thickness and cell density can all be controlled - and complex features such as capillary-like channels can be engineered into the tissues.
This technology allows high-quality and consistent manufacturing of tissues for therapeutic use, such as replacement skin; in cell biology by providing 3D collagen matrices for studying cell behaviour; or in drug-discovery applications including toxicity testing by generating skin, cornea and other models.