Interview with Levin Hafa: Brighter’s PhD student at GUF

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.

Levin Hafa is a PhD student working at the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences  (BMLS) at Goethe University Frankfurt (GUF) in the frame of Brighter. His is a biologist specialized in molecular and cell biology with experience in organoid and organ-on-chip technology, stem cells, human liver models and microfluidic devices. In this short video we can see one his tasks in the project related with the hydrogels patterning process. In this interview Levin explains his professional profile, formation, and his role in Brighter project. For sure his knowhow will be very important to the success of the project!

Can you describe yourself in a couple of lines?

I am Levin Hafa, a PhD student at the physical biology group of Prof. Ernst Stelzer at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. I am from Germany and originally from close to Frankfurt as well. After graduating from high school, I studied Biology at the Technical University of Darmstadt (TU) for my bachelor’s with a focus on molecular and cell biology. I then decided to pursue my master’s degree at the TU Darmstadt and joined the M.Sc. Technical Biology program. During my Erasmus semester in Barcelona at Universitat de Barcelona, I was first introduced into Organoid and Organ-on-chip technology. For my master’s thesis, I moved to Berlin and worked with stem cells, human liver models and microfluidic devices at TissUse, a TU Berlin spin-off. Being inspired by Tissue Engineering, Organ-on-chip technology and the 3R principles I was looking for a challenging PhD position in this field of biology. At Goethe University Frankfurt and with the BRIGHTER project in particular, I found the perfect environment to play to my strengths and pursue my interests.

What is your role/position within Brighter?

One of my main tasks within the BRIGHTER project is to develop and validate a patterning mechanism for 3D-bioprinting in the light-sheet (LS) system. Once this task is achieved, I will use this knowledge to complete my PhD project developing a 3D printed human liver model to establish another proof-of-concept for our bioprinting platform.

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

For the purpose of creating a patterning mechanism, I need to connect the fields of polymer chemistry, optics, software engineering and cell biology. Specifically, I am designing code, which interprets G-Code, a common 3D Printer language, which is able to transform a 3D CAD rendered model into lines of code and back to a 3D print. I then validate the written code by printing complex three dimensional structures with photosensitive hydrogels. Currently, I am also training to validate the code by printing 3D structures with embedded cells.

What are the expected results?

Once the patterning is established, we expect it to be able to recreate complex 3D structures both protruded and hollow features, focusing special attention on developing thin channels, as observed in human vasculature. Furthermore, we could recreate stem-cell niches, to help a model organ sustenance for a long period of time.

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

My work is especially important for BRIGHTER’s project, since it is the connection between our current LS system and the patterning system developed by our partner Mycronic, allowing for the 3D bioprinting of complex structures, that resemble the human physiology. Additionally, a quick way to 3D-print functional and long-lasting human tissue models would be of great interest for many pharmaceutical companies in terms of toxicological studies and preclinical trials.

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

Since I started my PhD in mid-2020, due to the pandemic I was not able to meet my fellow project partners in person yet. But I really enjoy working within an international, interdisciplinary team of scientists and can not wait to visit them.