BiomAcs, a system to study the interaction between implants and cells

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Any material introduced in our body can cause an effect. Interactions between materials and tissue cells, which range from macroscopic implants, biosensing platforms, or drug delivery systems will trigger an event. This is something universal and has been only recognised in terms of clinical potential in the last 15 years.

Since material-induced stimulation of tissue cells may elicit a similar effect as drugs, implants and nanostructures are not only able to restore primary function of a tissue or to deliver a drug; they can also provide additional therapy The challenge is to know which material properties are needed to actually elicit the desired response. The group of Prof. van Rijn at the Department of Biomedical Engineering of the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG, W.J. Kolff Institute) has developed a new technology and implemented it in the form of high-throughput screening technology for cell-material interactions – Biomaterial Advanced Cells Screening (BiomACS); this technology allows for studying thousands of combinations of material properties and the influence on cells in a single experiment.

A multidisciplinary collaboration

The new technology has been devised thanks to the collaboration between material scientists, chemists, cell biologists, and clinicians. In particular, the department of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Biology with scientists from NanoBioMed and REGENERATE both at the Faculty of Science & Engineering and the UMCG have been involved. The platform is composed of functional surface gradients that are cleverly combined to form a cell culture platform that provides key insights into cellular behaviors. The collaboration with clinicians from the departments of Orthopedics and Surgery (UMCG) helped formulate relevant clinical questions to enhance the currently clinical materials for specific applications such as osteogenic materials (bone ingrown implants) and bioactive cardiovascular stents. 

Implementation in Society

The connection with med-tech companies such as Polyvation (specialised in polymers), Bentley (specialised in stents), VDL Wientjes (specialised in 3D printing), Bether Encapsulates (specialised in controlled delivery) on enhancement of medical products provide clear insight in many translational aspects. To translate the findings to clinical products and applications, a spin-off company on the patented key platform technology has been established – BiomACS B.V. – which operates on a commercial level, while the current basic science research is performed by van Rijn’s research group. The platform is still being developed in its fundamental aspects. 

Teaming up with the local consultancy company EmpowerMi helped with the commercialisation of the patented technology. Currently, in collaboration with BiomACS BV, the department of Biomedical Engineering and Surgery, and implant manufacturer companies, innovation projects (improved aortic stents and bone ingrown implants) are being developed. In the long-term, these innovative implants will not only improve patients’ quality of life, but also reduce costs due to a decrease in reconstructive surgeries, medical follow-ups and hospitalisations. 

Impact on healthcare and education

By establishing a spin-off company from the research group is not only fruitful for ultimately reaching the patients; highly trained and skilled fundamental researchers have the possibility to enroll into a med-tech company, so that a pool of broadly educated professionals are thereby created impacting the regional level in technology-driven healthcare approaches.