The islet research group

Bioengineering strategies for β-cell and islet transplantation

Aart van Apeldoorn is a principal investigator in the MERLN Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine, at Maastricht University (the Netherlands). There, he leads the Islet Research Group, which aims to develop a bioartificial pancreas for extrahepatic islet transplantation. His research involves work on developing technologies for pancreatic tissue engineering, biomaterials characterisation, and basic research on the islet extracellular matrix. The islet research group's aim is to improve and develop beta cell replacement strategies in a multidisciplinary manner combining biomaterial science, islet biology, regenerative medicine and bioengineering for treatment type 1 diabetes.

Dr van Apeldoorn is a main principal investigator in the diabetes moonshot team of RegMed XB and was chairman of the steering committee for the Diabetes Cell Therapy Initiative and maintains a number of international and national collaborations. 

Before starting the Islet Research Group, Dr van Apeldoorn was CEO and Founder of MicroCandela Systems and the project leader on a Dutch Platform for Tissue Engineering project on Raman imaging for tissue engineering, and he worked in the bone tissue engineering team at IsoTis (now part of Integra LifeSciences). His PhD was titled, "Confocal Raman Microscopy: Applications in Tissue Engineering" and was supervised by Prof. Clemens van Blitterswijk and Dr Cees Otto. His pre-doctoral training was in Biology at the University of Utrecht. In addition to his research activities, Dr van Apeldoorn was the track coordinator Reconstructive Medicine and co-coordinator of the Imaging and Interventions Masters, of the Technical Medicine Masters programme at the University of Twente teaching both Masters and Bachelors students.

Recent Research News

December 2018-February 2019: Two new papers on extracellular matrix and endocrine function of beta cells and islets were published in "Tissue engineering", showing that specific combinations of certain proteins can enhance the function of beta cells.

Paper 1: Islet function and ECM

Paper 2: Beta cells, microcontact printing and ECM

FIG. 3. 

September 2017: The first scientific meeting of the diabetes moonshot research program in RegMed XB was held, and in the last period 4 new papers have been published on different islet delivery devices. Check out the publication list if you like to know more.

August 2017: A new JDRF funded project has started! We are going to work on a new macroencapsulation device for islet and beta cell transplantation during the next coming 3 years.

July 2017: Happy birthday! 11 years of DON Foundation, thanks for inviting me to give a talk about our research and the development of a new transplantation strategy and supporting us together with the Dutch Diabetes Research Foundation for the next 5 years in RegMed XB. 

June 2017: We are currently looking for 4 ambitious Postdoctoral candidates to work on two different bioengineering projects (JDRF and RegMed Xb) regarding immunoprotective delivery devices for 3 years and fully funded. Potential PhD students are also encouraged to apply.

and Welcome Adam Stell! He'll work on a JDRF funded project about a retrievable islet delivery device.

March 2017: Dr.'s Martin Paine from the M4I institute at Maastricht University and Aart van Apeldoorn have won the Brightlands Innovation Challenge award!, a 10.000 Euros grant, donated to kick-start a collaborative research project to systematically analyze and visualize the composition of the biomolecular environment of the beta cell in human pancreatic islets using 3D mass-spectroscopy imaging at the microscale. 

December 2016: Rick de Vries will start as a new PhD student on a newly funded JDRF project beginning of next year 

September 2016: We have just published a communication on the use of Theophylline, and how to improve the glucose responsiveness of INS1E and MIN6 insuloma cell lines in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

In addition, we published two new papers (paper 1, paper 2 ) on polymer scaffolds for islet transplantation in collaboration with Sandra Smink and Paul de Vos at the UMCG in Groningen, NL, and a paper on enzymatically crosslinkable hydrogels for cell encapsulation using a microchip.

September 2016: We'll soon be starting a new research line on a retrievable and replaceable islet delivery device. Thanks to JDRF who awarded a $900,000 grant to make this happen.

September 2016: We have moved to a new institute! MERLN Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University.

August 2016: An amazing and truly exciting new programme has been launched called: RegMed XB (Regenerative Medicine Crossing Borders). We will be participating in our quest to find a possible cure for type 1 Diabetes.

February 2016: Our new paper is now available online on coculturing islets with support cells for revascularization in Tissue Engineering Part A.

October 2015: Mijke Buitinga will defend her thesis on the 30th of October entitled: Plan-β: a bioengineering approach against type 1 diabetes.

Mijke Buitinga’s doctoral thesis focusses on precise and systematic control during the manufacturing of a tailor made delivery device that facilitates vascularization and engraftment of islets specifically engineered for extrahepatic islet transplantation. The proposed scaffold design comprises of a microwell array scaffold platform with a high degree of controllability over porosity and pore dimensions.

May 2015: A new paper has been published on the requirements for printing islets in macroporous 3D constructs using a mixture of alginate-gelatin as bio-ink in Biofabrication. 

March 2015: JCMM accepted our paper on reassembly of human pancreatic islet cells. A study focussed on the effects of islet cell re-aggregation on endocrine function, gene expression and survival of human psuedoislets in vitro and in vivo

We also published a News and Views article in Nature Photonics about some excellent research done by Jathoul et al. on photoacoustic imaging of genetically altered mammalian cells expressing melanin allowing for non invasive in vivo imaging of cells and vasculature using different wavelenghts.   

February 2015: Lecture on "Bioengineering strategies for type one diabetes" at the 3D printing symposium: 3D printing in health – from imaging to 3D reality on February 6th 2015 from 10.00-17.00hrs. at the UMCG in Groningen, the Netherlands.

August 2014: A new paper describing the outcome of a collaboration with the Ghent University on the use of agarose micro-well chips for high throughput generation of uniform hepatocyte aggregates. We report that three dimensional aggregation of hepatocytes has a beneficial effect on the expression of certain hepatocyte specific markers depending on the aggregate dimensions.

April 2 2014: King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands officially opened "The Gallery”, a novel center for innovation at the “Kennispark” Twente. The Gallery houses around 400 companies working on innovation. Aart van Apeldoorn informed the King about the Diabetes Cell Therapy Initiative and the setup of the consortium. He also explained the goal of the project and the use of advanced microfabrication techniques to adapt biomaterials for creating an optimal islet transplantation environment for type 1 diabetes. For an impression of the whole event you can go to: NPO TV (at 26:50 min, in Dutch).

Nov 2013: A new paper on the analysis of pancreatic islet cells with confocal Raman spectroscopy has been published by PLOS ONE.

July 2013: Two new papers. One on beta cell transdifferentiation, and one on confocal Raman imaging of tissue engineered cartilage scaffolds were published in Diabetes and The Journal of the Royal Society:Interface.                    

May 2013: Our paper on microwell scaffolds for extra-hepatic transplantation of islets of Langerhans was accepted by PLOS ONE.

January 2013: JDRF awarded a $1,042,131 grant to investigate a tissue engineered macroencapsulation device for immunoprotection of transplanted donor islets together with colleagues from the University of Twente (Dr. Stamatialis) and the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami (FL) USA (Dr. Stabler).