Belgian researcher Denis Dufrane and his team of researchers from the University of St. Luc’s (UCL) Cell and Tissue Therapy Center (CTTC) have developed a revolutionary technique that consists of producing a three-dimensional “modeling-clay-like” osseous structure derived from a patient’s own fatty tissue. This first-of-its-kind technology involves a technique in which stem cells are drawn from fatty tissue, cultured and multiplied over the course of two months. The coin-sized structures are then re-implanted into the patient where bone is missing or not capable of being made naturally.

In May 2013 UCL spin-off Novadip Bioscience was created to develop and bring to the market this innovative therapy to a wide spectrum of patients. Developed for patients for whom a solution was no longer available, including children with bone cancer, this technique, which produces a kind of “modeling clay” that can be modeled to fill the empty cavity, will be extended to a range of patients who have difficulty “making bone”.

“This spin-off will allow for the implementation to produce this famous “modeling clay”; pass into the clinical phases and one day be able to offer it to a greater number of patients “, delights Dufrane.

Because it literally creates bone

Baptized Creost®, because it literally creates bone, the researchers from the CTTC began their works with a phase of basic research from 2008 until 2010. The team verified that these cells could be developed under sterile “white room” conditions, (an environment where temperature, humidity and pressure are controlled so as to prevent any contamination). “The objective, or the initial idea was to try using the fat of the patient (taken without pain under local anesthetic), to isolate the fat stem cells, to differentiate them from the osseous cells and return them to the patient, after having obtained a three-dimensional structure susceptible to bone reconstruction”, describes Prof. Denis Dufrane.

From fatty tissue to “flexible” bone matrix  To begin with, a small amount of fat is extracted from the abdomen (under local anesthetic). Once harvested, the fat stem cells are put in culture and differentiated at the CTTC under sterile “white room ” conditions. In as little as two months the fat cell is transformed into an osseous three-dimensional structure resembling a flexible “modeling-clay-like” matrix roughly 2-3 mm thick, without any restriction in terms of volume. This autologous “flexible” bone, containing all the properties of a native bone, is then implanted into the patient.

Why fat is better than bone marrow

For years the most common techniques of regenerative medicine has focused on “stem cells derived from the bone but results for making bone have been disappointing”, explains Prof Dufrane. The team of researchers therefore decided to evaluate all kinds of stem cells and found that “fat contained 500 times more stem cells than bone marrow. They could also differentiate into bone and were completely resistant to deprivation of oxygen and blood vessels.” In the adult there are two essential origins for stem cells: bone marrow, historically, and over the past decade, fat. “The big difference between these two sites lies within the invasive method of extracting the cell. Bone marrow extraction turns out to be very invasive because the cells need to be retrieved from the iliac crest (or hip), an intervention that frequently results in chronic pain. On the contrary, fat cell extraction involves a very simple procedure, which can be performed under local anesthetic. It is not an invasive procedure and it is not a second surgery, which is extremely important.” continues Dufrane.

From research to spin-off

The researchers conducted prolonged animal tests on pigs that had developed fibrosis bone too fragile to sustain pressure and that could no longer be repaired naturally. Results showed that this innovative matrix, once implanted into the “crater-like” cavity of the bone, created a sort of bridge helping to replace what nature could not.

Based on the success of these results, to date, the team at UCL has treated 11 patients, 8 of them children, with fractures or bone defects that their bodies could not repair, have successfully managed to redevelop bone within just a few months and return to living a normal life. Three other patients have been treated for intervertebral lumbar disc degeneration whereby the matrix is inserted exactly where the fusion of two vertebrae needs to be supported. Dufrane expresses, “We are very excited because all patients had bone rebuild, without incurring fractures. Their quality of life has definitely improved. Imagine that these patients should undergo repeat fractures, multiple interventions and long periods of hospitalization.”

With a new technique they believe could become a benchmark for treating a range of bone disorders, Novadip initially seeks to commercialize the treatment to allow spinal fusion among elderly people with degenerated discs. Furthermore, the team from UCL and Novadip Biosciences hope to provide innovative treatments for severe bone healing disorders and bone defects. The spin-off may also seek to create a bone tissue bank using fat cells from donors rather than the patients themselves.  

For UCL and Novadip, looks like this revolutionary technique may become one big “fat” success!


3D Printing: Sirris Takes a Step Further with its BioPrinting Project!

Sirris has been using additive manufacturing technologies, known as “3D printing” to consumers, for nearly 25 years. Today, this research centre located in Gosselies (a hot-spot for health biotechnologies in Wallonia, Belgium) reaches another level and launches an R&D project focusing on the technology of 3D-BioPrinting.


BioPrinting is a technology derived from additive manufacturing activities that consists of printing, layer by layer in 3D, biologically relevant materials (such as cells, tissues or biodegradable biomaterials) that will accomplish one or more biological functions. This technology covers a wide range of applications from drug discovery and assays to in vitro diagnostics, cell therapy, tissue engineering as well as the production of biomolecules.Sirris_Hand


Sirris is the collective centre of the Belgian technological industry, located in Gosselies. Its main mission is to help companies in the implementation of technological innovations. Sirris has specialized in many different expertise of which include additive manufacturing.

Thanks to the funding of FEDER* and of the Governement of Wallonia, Sirris has invested in the development ofcutting-edge technologies (3D printers) and has opened a biomanufacturing platform dedicated topersonalized medicine. Its 25-years of experience in 3D printing of medical instruments and tailor-made implants has allowed the center to become one of the most innovative and competitive in Europe for this research area!


We are always monitoring emerging technologies and markets with potential growth and we know that the biomedical industry is one of the most promising market for this technology. Two other aspects have motivated our decision: a real demand from the players of the sector and we have all the value chains we need, here in Belgium, to meet our objective!” says Gregory Nolens, Project Manager at Sirris.

Sirris, in collaboration with FILK (a research centre located in Germany), has decided to launch a project called “Bi4Life” which stands for BioPrinting of Biactive Bicomponent Biomaterial for LIFE science industrial products. Throughout the project, Sirris will be in charge of the development of technology (hardware adaptation, process tuning, software implementation and machine/material integration and testing) and FILK will develop the material (biological material preparation, chemical characterization, combination with synthetic material).

The project is currently supported by industrial key players (e.g. WOW Technology, Cardio 3 Biosciences, Physiol). Sirris is willing to involve companies active in cell therapy, in vitro diagnostics, drug discovery and medical device, all of which are technological areas for which Belgium (and more particularly Wallonia) has fully integrated value chains.


Sirris has identified 2 promising technologies for BioPrinting and parallel applications: the Biomaterial extrusion and cells droplets deposition as well as Nanoscale 3D printing with Two-photon polymerization (2PP).

BioPrinting could allow for multiple material dispensing, the use of cells during manufacturing process, a high level of accuracy, a certain adaptability (to manufacturing environment, temperatures, clean process) as well as good mechanical-chemical-biological properties.

The extremely precise and highly accurate printing (100nm) of biomaterial is industrial and among physician’s needs. A €350K machine investment is foreseen in the framework of FEDER in order to help innovations in BioPrinting, small implants, microfluidic, diagnostic, microelectronics…

The first phase of the “Bi4Life” project will start in 2014 and will last 2 years. Sirris hopes that the milestones of these two years will generate new projects related to new BioPrinting applications. The first machine prototypes should be released in 2016, and be valorized by industrial sponsors afterwards.

The call for the Bi4Life project is still ongoing. For more information, please contact Mr. Grégory Nolens.

* FEDER or EFDR: European Regional Development Fund


Source: « Sirris se lance dans le BioPrinting » (only in the French version).

About Sirris

Sirris is a Belgian industrial research center established in 1949. Nowadays its 160 employees provide innovation and support technology transfer to more than 2,500 Belgian companies in the sectors of metalworking, plastics, mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering, information and communication technologies and automotive (>95% SME’s). 16 AM technologies provide capabilities in development of specific additive manufacturing technology and materials, rapid prototyping technologies and manufacturing technologies for the tool-less manufacturing of functional ceramic, plastic and metal parts and moulds for electromechanical, aerospace and medical applications. Since 20 years the ADD department tried to focus on the last generation of AM technologies to provide up-to-date solutions for the Belgian industrial partners but also for R&D projects (EU, national, regional, InterReg, …).


Mr. Grégory Nolens
Project Manager
M: +32 498 919 475

Mr. Carsten Engel
Project Manager
M: +32 498 91 94 50




About sooteris kyritsis

Job title: (f)PHELLOW OF SOPHIA Profession: RESEARCHER Company: ANTHROOPISMOS Favorite quote: "ITS TIME FOR KOSMOPOLITANS(=HELLINES) TO FLY IN SPACE." Interested in: Activity Partners, Friends Fashion: Classic Humor: Friendly Places lived: EN THE HIGHLANDS OF KOSMOS THROUGH THE DARKNESS OF AMENTHE
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