At the annual PhD Competition of the FIGON Dutch Medicines Days for innovative drug research, UT PhD student Marcel Heinrich has been awarded second place. He received the prize for his research on 3D bio-printed miniature brains.
His mini-brains can be used to reduce the number of animals used in drug research. "Before new drugs are tested on animals, they are first tested on 2D cell tissues. However, the step from a 2D tissue to a complete organism is still too big and many potential drugs will fail on this step. By first testing the medicines on a 3D structure, you can better predict whether a medicine will work in a laboratory animal," says Marcel.
The mini-organs themselves are not new. Heinrich received his prize for the way he produces his mini-brains. Most 3D mini-organs are made with a mould, but this does not give the desired control Heinrich wants. "With 3D bioprinting, you can place the cells exactly where you need them. This allows you to recreate very complex biological structures, such as a brain tumour surrounded by glial and stromal cells.
Marcel Heinrich is a PhD student in the Biomaterials Science and Technology department. His promoter is Prof. Dr. Jai Prakash. The PhD student competition in which Heinrich took 2nd place is organised annually by FIGON and sponsored by Pfizer Nederland. It is the first time that a PhD student from the UT reaches the top three of this competition.