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Bioprinting functional tissues from stem cells and enabling biomaterials

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Project aim and strategy

The main aim of this project is the fabrication of functional tissues, that can serve as next-generation implants and organ-on-chip devices, to mimic the healthy and damaged articular joint. The devices will be used for testing new therapeutic agents and may assist in reducing or replacing the use of experimental animals.

The main steps to achieve this goal will be:

  • Development of novel bioinks;
  • Integration of 3D printing and microfluidic technology to develop microfluidic devices for each tissue of the articular joint (e.g synovium, cartilage, bone);
  • Replicating biochemical and biomechanical interactions of the joint as an organ in vitro.

Project partners


The synovial joint is a complex organ comprising several tissues, such as articular cartilage, subchondral bone, synovium, menisci, tendon, ligament and fat pad. These tissues work closely together to maintain joint homeostasis, which is crucial for the proper functioning of the joint. The ideal in vitro model to capture this complex environment consist of several joint tissues-on-chip connected with each other in a modular fashion.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common invalidating disease characterized by gradual and unavoidable joint deterioration affecting 1.4 million Dutch. Current in vivo and in vitro models lack translation power for the development effective OA-treatments. We are currently developing an organ-on-chip model to mimic joint tissues typically affected by OA (e.g. cartilage, bone, synovial membrane). These on-chip units uniquely mimic the mechanical stimuli present in the joint, and with all units combined, will closely resemble a micro-joint.

  • Piluso S, Li Y, Abinzano F, Levato R, Moreira Teixeira L, Karperien M, Leijten J, van Weeren R, Malda J. “Mimicking the Articular Joint with In Vitro Models”. Trends in Biotechnology. DOI: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2019.03.003

Acquired funding by PIs since start of program:

  1. ReumaNederland: Technovolution in Joint Repair (600k€, 2018-2022);
  2. ReumaNederland: Managing Joint Complexity (600k€, 2018-2022; LLP-12);
  3. ReumaNederland (600k€, 2018-2022; LLP-22).