3D-Bioprinted Photocurable Natural Hydrogel for Cartilage Regeneration

H. Zhu, G. Guangdong, H.H. Chen
SinoBioPrint (Shanghai)Biotech Ltd.,

Keywords: photocurable bioinks (GelMA, HAMA,CSMA...), 3D Bioprinting, Lyophilization, Cartilage regeneration


Repair of cartilage defects is highly challenging in clinical treatment. Tissue engineering provides a promising approach for cartilage regeneration and repair. As a core component of tissue engineering, scaffolds have a crucial influence on cartilage regeneration, especially in immunocompetent large animal and human. Native polymers, such as gelatin, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate, have known as ideal biomimetic scaffold sources for cartilage regeneration. However, how to precisely control their structure, degradation rate, and mechanical properties suitable for cartilage regeneration remains a great challenge. To address these issues, a series of strategies were introduced in the current study to optimize the scaffold fabrication. First, gelatin and hyaluronic acid were prepared into a hydrogel and 3D printing was adopted to ensure precise control in both the outer 3D shape and internal pore structure. Second, methacrylic anhydride and a photoinitiator were introduced into the hydrogel system to make the material photocurable during 3D printing. Finally, lyophilization was used to further enhance mechanical properties and prolong degradation time. According to the current results, by integrating photocuring 3D printing and lyophilization techniques, gelatin and hyaluronic acid were successfully fabricated into human ear- and nose-shaped scaffolds, and both scaffolds achieved shape similarity levels over 90% compared with the original digital models. The scaffolds with 50% infill density achieved proper internal pore structure suitable for cell distribution, adhesion, and proliferation. Besides, lyophilization further enhanced mechanical strength of the 3D-printed hydrogel and slowed its degradation rate matching to cartilage regeneration. Most importantly, the scaffolds combined with chondrocytes successfully regenerated mature cartilage with typical lacunae structure and cartilage-specific extracellular matrixes both in vitro and in the autologous goat model. The current study established novel scaffold-fabricated strategies for native biomaterials and provided a novel natural 3D scaffold with satisfactory outer shape, pore structure, mechanical strength, degradation rate, and weak immunogenicity for cartilage regeneration. More recently, we have improved the chondrocyte growth in vitro and enhanced the mechanical strengths of the scaffold, and further explored the application possibilities of this novel cartilage regeneration strategy in orthopedic and plastic surgeries.