UOW Senior Research Fellow Dr Xiao Liu uses her expertise to develop 3D bioprinting techniques for tissue engineering.

Dr Xiao Liu is a Senior Research Fellow working with the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) of the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM), specialising in the biomedical application of materials.

Dr Liu holds a Bachelor degree in Biomedical Engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology and a Masters in Biology from the National University of Singapore. Dr Liu joined UOW in 2005 where she completed her PhD in Chemistry at IPRI. Upon completion in 2009, Dr Liu continued her work with IPRI/AIIM where she held a UOW CERL Fellowship in 2022. She is now a Senior Research Fellow with IPRI/AIIM and focuses on the pancreatic islet printing and bone regeneration projects. Dr Liu has also worked for the Australian National Manufacturing Facility (ANFF) material node.

During her first few years with IPRI, Dr Liu spent time working on nerve stimulation through the use of conductive polymeric materials and electrical stimulation to promote tissue proliferation and regeneration.

“In 2016 we started working in the field of cell printing, which is quite an exciting area. By utilising bioprinting technology to print live cells, we were able to combine multiple materials together to integrate into scaffolds. These are used to help with the regeneration and rebuilding of cell tissue.” Dr Liu said.

Following this work, Dr Liu has worked extensively with the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse on bone regeneration. She has worked particularly closely with Dr Jonathan Clark who is the Director of Head and Neck Research and the Lang Walker Family Foundation Chair in Head and Neck Cancer Reconstructive Surgery at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

“We are trying to build an implant that not only replaces removed facial bone, but also restores the patient’s face. This is not just for the health benefits, but to allow patients to feel confident within society again” Dr Liu said.

The process requires scanning and 3D modelling prior to surgery in order to rebuild the patient’s face before removing a large area of bone. In collaboration with UOW’s Translational Research Initiative for Cellular Engineering and Printing (TRICEP) and relevant clinicians, the team are working towards animal trials with this 3D bioprinting technology.

In addition to bone regeneration, Dr Liu has also been working on pancreatic islet transplantation for Type 1 diabetes in collaboration with Professor Toby Coates from the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Asan Medical Centre in South Korea.

“If this works, patients won’t need to undertake daily insulin injections which will totally change the way we choose to live with Type 1 diabetes.”

“A lot of research is based in the lab where we have gained a significant amount of knowledge. We are now trying to use this knowledge to solve the problem in the real world.”

“I want to tell the young generation of women that there are a lot of challenges, but never underestimate your potential or power. I never expected that one day we would be working with leading clinicians in Australia to make change, but now we are. We are getting really close to implanting the biomaterials we have developed in the human body”, Dr Liu said.

To learn more about Dr Liu’s work on pancreatic islet transplantation for Type 1 diabetes, please refer to the paper, ‘Development of a Coaxial 3D Printing Platform for Biofabrication of Implantable Islet-Containing Constructs‘.

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