New centre for Biohybrid Medical Systems

29th January 2018

RWTH Aachen University is to open the Centre for Biohybrid Medical Systems (CBMS) within the biomedical engineering cluster. The new centre, which will employ about 150 people, will not only provide a new building infrastructure, but also a digital infrastructure from day one.

The department lead by Prof. Dr. Stefan Jockenhövel develops so-called biohybrid implants, i.e. implants that are partly made from artificial materials and partly from the body's own cells - such as for example the biohybrid heart valve. To achieve this, a combination of a biological component - cells in a biological matrix - and a technical support component are used. The technical component is a so-called textile reinforcement, which ensures that the implant works reliably and remains stable for a long time. The biomaterials are processed into textile structures using traditional textile techniques such as knitting, melt and electrospinning. The textiles are then colonised by the cells using fibrin, the body's "glue", e.g. for blood coagulation. In the bioreactor, the heart valves produced this way are then trained for the natural blood flow and pressure occurring in the body. After this conditioning phase, the biohybrid and long-term stable heart valves are ready for implanting into the patient of the future.

The focus of the new research centre is on preclinical studies, however the aim is to further test the results in clinical studies, at the university hospital in the immediate vicinity.

"When you do research that is so close to clinical application, and everything is aimed at testing the results in human patients, you have to ensure the quality and traceability of the preclinical research data for all participants," comments Prof. Christian Apel, head of the department Biohybrid and Medical Textiles. "Both the 'Good Scientific Practice' and the regulatory authorities demand a complete record and safe storage of our research results. Of course, as a university institution, we also have many students and postgraduates who contribute a big deal to research. However, they leave the institute after completing their project, which is not only a great pity, but also very frustrating to see data generated with great effort become inretrievable, hidden in paper notebooks or in unstructured or even inaccessible digital documents."

However, the vision of the digitisation strategy goes even further: "Once you have convinced employees to store all your data in a structured and accessible way, and this data treasure trove grows constantly, then previously unimagined possibilities open up for us in the future," says Prof. Apel. "Every scientist dreams of getting as much out of his data as possible. We produce so much data that a human can not possibly perceive all the potential relations within the datasets."

Because of these goals and this vision, the RWTH researchers have opted for an electronic lab book. Within the evaluation process, the decision fell on labfolder: "Although digitisation is all over other industries already - in the lab environment you still need to convince your team to fully embark on central, digital data storage. And the ease of use is the most important factor to convince your team. The ease of use of labfolder, plus the possibilities for granular data structures, is what convinced us."

Florian Hauer, co-founder and COO of labfolder, is enthusiastic about the decision - not only because another prestigious customer was won with the new centre at the RWTH: "Of course, it's great fun to work with pioneers who share our vision: Sooner or later, the lab book will become an intelligent lab assistant."





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