The function of living tissues and organs is intimately linked to their architecture. In our lab, we are fascinated by how cells interact with this complex environment, communicate with each other, sense and remodel their surroundings, to determine how tissues develop and function, both in healthy and diseased states. In our research, we investigate how to capture this dynamics in vitro to build lab-made, engineered tissues for personalized therapies, disease models and regenerative medicine.
To achieve this goal, we develop advanced biofabrication and bioprinting technologies, smart cell-instructive biomaterials and state-of-the-art stem cell technologies.
The Levato lab comprises a multidisciplinary team of scientists, from biologists to biomedical engineers, chemists and physicists from Utrecht University and from the University Medical Center Utrecht. The team contributes to the Utrecht Biofabrication facility. You can find us at the Regenerative Medicine Center Utrecht, from where we connect with many partners across the Utrecht Life Science campus at UU, UMCU, Hubrecht Institute and Princess Maxima Center.
Biofabrication, relying on automated bioprinting and bioassembly technologies, allow great freedom of design to precisely control the spatial positioning and patterning of multiple cell types and materials. At the LevatoLab, we are at the forefront of biofabrication technology development to enhance the complexity and functionality of our tissue engineered constructs. We focus on the design of new approaches, multi-technology printing platforms and applications of a broad array of 3D (bio)printing technologies, including Digital light projection (DLP) printing, Extrusion-based bioprinting (EBB), Melt and Cell Electrowriting (MEW), Laser induced-forward transfer (LIFT), Fused depoistion modeling (FDM). In addition of these layer-by-layer manufacturing approach, our lab pioneered the development of Volumetric bioprinting (VBP), which we investigate for sculpting complex and large living constructs in a matter of few seconds.
In order to harness the structural and biological potential our tissue engineering approaches have to offer, the development of smart biomaterials that are stimuli-responsive and possess bioactive components is essential. We design a wide array of novel materials, scaffolds for tissue engineering, and hydrogels as printable bioinks and bioresins that interact with cells and mimic the native dynamics of the extracellular milieu, with the goal of enhancing the biological functionality of (printed) cells, and boost material-guided tissue maturation and regeneration. We work with a wide array of natural-origin materials (gelatin, silk, hyaluronan, etc.), as well as synthetic hydrogels and biodegradable polyesters, investigating novel photochemistries and dynamic and supremolecular interactions.
Bioengineering Functional Living Systems
With state-of-the-art organoids, stem cell and synthetic biology technologies, our aim is to develop tissue analogues with native-like functionality. We study how smart cell-instructive biomaterials and advanced biofabrication technologies can be used to drive morphogenesis from cultured cells, and assess the emergence of organ-level functions that are lacking in insufficiently organized structures. Be it as implantable tissue engineered constructs, organ-on-a-chip devices, or advanced in vitro models for drug testing and disease modeling, the Levato Lab research focuses on a wide array of tissue-specific applications:
- Bone and bone marrow
- Vascular systems
- Articulating joint tissues (cartilage, bone, synovium)
- Cardiac tissue