Interview with Angela Cirulli: Brighter’s PhD student at IBEC

Brighter is a European Project that brings together different academic and industrial partners to develop a new 3D bioprinting technology able to produce human tissues at high speed and with high spatial resolution. This innovative technology is based on light-sheet lithography and an original top-down approach.

Angela Cirulli is a PhD student in the frame of Brighter working at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), in the Biomimetic Systems for Cell Engineering Laboratory led by Elena Martínez. Her background and previous research experience add high value to the project! You can check here a short video where she briefly describes a typical workday in the lab., and also an interview where she explains in more detail some aspects of her professional profile and her role in Brighter project. Enjoy it!

Can you describe yourself in a couple of lines?

I am Angela Cirulli, PhD student at IBEC, in the group of Elena Martinez. I am Italian and I studied Industrial Chemistry at La Sapienza, University of Rome. After my Master degree I firstly moved to Copenhagen, at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) thanks to a European funded project that I won. This project gave me the opportunity to learn new skills abroad and then to came back in Italy, at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Rome, where I had the opportunity to apply what I learnt. Before joining IBEC, for my PhD, I worked as Research Assistant for a period at DTU, thanks to a grant from my former University.

What is your role/position within Brighter?

My role in the BRIGHTER consortium is to find and validate the best formulation of polymers, developed by other partners, in terms of mechanical properties, biocompatibility and cellular viability, to produce functional 3D skin tissues that will be later bioprinted using Light-Sheet Microscopy at GUF facilities.

Could you tell us a little bit about the concrete work you’re involved in inside Brighter project?

My work is focused on the photopolymerization of hydrogel scaffolds, using light -sheet conditions and testing different polymers formulations, both in terms of mechanical behavior and of cell-culture compatibility and viability within the hydrogels. In particular, I’m studying the best formulation and the suitable photopolymerization conditions to allow the growth, proliferation and migration of skin cells within the printed hydrogels. I am also performing co-culture tests, combining different skin cell types and conditions, to better mimic the in vivo stratification of skin-tissue models.

What is the expected impact of the work you’re doing?

What we expect is to reproduce faithfully the skin-tissue, mimicking its heterogeneous architecture, including hollow structures and skin appendix, providing mechanical and biochemical properties of cell environment, without compromising the cell viability.

My work, in collaboration with other partners is fundamental to reach the goal of the project, since it is the previous step before the final model fabrication using the Brighter’ s Light-Sheet system, which allow to fabricate skin models at high speed and spatial resolution. Furthermore, the possibility to test simultaneously the process and materials, in different work contexts, is relevant to reproduce and validate the whole system.

How do you feel about being a part of this European Project?

Being part of this European Project represents a good opportunity both in terms of personal and academical growth. Working with partners from other countries and in particular the possibility to collaborate with other PhD students, represents a stimulus to reach a common goal together, participating at nice work discussion and sharing different points of view.  This cooperation contributes to overcome issues, continuously improving our own communication and organizational skills.