Where Ideas Grow

i3S joins project funded by the US Air Force

The international CellRUEE project (Investigations of Cell Responses to Extreme Environments Created by 3D Printing), whose partner is the "nanoBiomaterials for Targeted Therapies" group, led by researcher Ana Paula Pêgo, was recently funded by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) with around 1.4 million euros. The aim is to understand how human cells behave in extreme environments in order to develop treatments for pilots and aircraft crews when they suffer accidents.

Coordinated by the researcher ZJ Pei, the consortium that will develop the project is made up of four partners - three laboratories from the Texas A&M University (TAMU) and one from Portugal - and follows a previous project also funded by AFOSR and led by Ana Paula Pêgo. In the previous project, explains the researcher, "we proposed a new 3D model to study macroglia cells - astrocytes and oligodendrocytes - and now we want to expand and make this model more complete, in order to better mimic brain tissue".

Currently, explains Ana Paula Pêgo, "we don't fully understand how human cells respond to extreme environments, such as very high or very low temperatures, very high pressure, or thin air". The long-term goal of this new project, she clarifies, "is to advance our understanding of the biophysical effects of extreme environments on humans in order to facilitate the development of treatments for pilots and aircraft crews when they suffer injuries, as well as protocols for preventive care that mitigate the impacts of these extreme environments on the short- and long-term health of those who operate these vehicles."

To this end, the consortium's scientists will "develop new in vitro models, using bioprinting techniques, which mimic brain and lung tissue and allow us to simulate extreme conditions. We will also explore advanced non-invasive imaging techniques to monitor cell behaviour." 

The Ana Paula Pêgo’s group will receive around 270,000 euros and will be responsible for developing new models of brain tissue. The Portuguese team, adds the Associate Professor at the Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Science (ICBAS), will also "explore bioprinting techniques so that these models become more reproducible and allow for high-performance studies".