A versatile bioink for three-dimensional printing of cellular scaffolds based on thermally and photo-triggered tandem gelation

Layer-by-layer bioprinting is a logical choice for the fabrication of stratified tissues like articular cartilage. Printing of viable organ replacements, however, is dependent on bioinks with appropriate rheological and cytocompatible properties. In cartilage engineering, photocrosslinkable glycosaminoglycan-based hydrogels are chondrogenic, but alone have generally poor printing properties. By blending the thermoresponsive polymer poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) grafted hyaluronan (HA-pNIPAAM) with methacrylated hyaluronan (HAMA), high-resolution scaffolds with good viability were printed. HA-pNIPAAM provided fast gelation and immediate post-printing structural fidelity, while HAMA ensured long-term mechanical stability upon photocrosslinking. The bioink was evaluated for rheological properties, swelling behavior, printability and biocompatibility of encapsulated bovine chondrocytes. Elution of HA-pNIPAAM from the scaffold was necessary to obtain good viability. HA-pNIPAAM can therefore be used to support extrusion of a range of biopolymers which undergo tandem gelation, thereby facilitating the printing of cell-laden, stratified cartilage constructs with zonally varying composition and stiffness.

This paper was originally published in Acta Biomaterialia (2014).

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