Using digital twins to design 3D printed implants for skeletal tissue engineering

by Liesbet Geris, University of Liege

One of the major challenges in tissue engineering and an essential step towards successful clinical applications is the translation of biological knowledge on complex cell and tissue behavior into predictive and robust engineering processes. Computational modelling can contribute to this, among others because it allows to study the biological complexity in a more quantitative way. Computational tools can help in quantifying and optimizing micro-environmental signals to which cells and tissues are exposed and in understanding and predicting the biological response under different conditions.

A wide variety of model systems has been presented in the context of tissue engineering ranging from empirical models (data-driven) over gene network models to mechanistic models (hypothesis-based), targeting processes at the intracellular over the cellular up to the tissue level. Each model system has its own benefits and limitations which delineate the context in which it can be used. Whereas mechanistic models are used as in silico tools to design new therapeutic strategies and experiments, empirical models are used to identify, in large data sets, those in vitro parameters (biological, biomaterial, environmental) that are critical for the in vivo outcome.

In this talk I will show a number of examples of these models, all related to the optimization of scaffold design in the context of skeletal tissue engineering. In order to optimize (additively manufactured) bioceramics-based biomaterials, we have developed models simulating the degradation of the biomaterials upon in vivo implantation, as well as the influence the degradation products have on the local biology. Extensive screening experiments have guided the model formation. This model technology is currently also being applied to design degradable metal scaffolds for similar biological indications. Other in silico models are able to predict the optimal scaffold geometry and quantify the created microenvironment for cells seeded onto the scaffold during perfusion bioreactor culture or try to identify the local mechanical forces put on cells inside hydrogel containing bioinks during 3D bioprinting.

The talk will end with an outlook on the different actions that need to be taken when bringing in silico models from the bench to the bed side.



What drives you?
Helping the patient in a way that is sustainable for society.

Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
To broaden their horizon.

What emerging technologies/trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
Computer modeling and simulation!

What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
Reduce trial & error, reduce time to market.

What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
Regulatory acceptance: taken care of already for medical devices and drugs.

About Liesbet Geris

Liesbet Geris is Collen-Francqui Research professor in Biomechanics and Computational Tissue Engineering at the University of Liège and KU Leuven in Belgium. Her research focusses on the multi-scale and multi-physics modeling of skeletal tissue engineering processes.

Liesbet is scientific coordinator of Prometheus, a musculoskeletal Tissue Engineering platform. Her research is funded by regional, national and European funding agencies (including and ERC starting & an ERC consolidator grant). She has received numerous young investigator and research awards.

She is member of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society strategic alliance committee and the current executive director of the Virtual Physiological Human Institute.

About University of Liège

Inspired by nature and driven by technology, researchers from the Biomechanics Research Unit develop in silico and in vitro tools to increase understanding of pathophysiological processes and design novel treatment strategies. Following a strong interdisciplinary and integrative approach, their tools encompass multiple time/length scales, various biological application domains and all R&D phases from bench to bedside. Being a diverse and open group, they actively collaborate with international academic partners, clinical partners, industry, patient organisations, regulators and policy makers.

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