Printing thermoresponsive reverse molds for the creation of patterned two-component hydrogels for 3D cell culture

J Vis Exp. 2013 Jul 10;(77):e50632. doi: 10.3791/50632.


Bioprinting is an emerging technology that has its origins in the rapid prototyping industry. The different printing processes can be divided into contact bioprinting(1-4) (extrusion, dip pen and soft lithography), contactless bioprinting(5-7) (laser forward transfer, ink-jet deposition) and laser based techniques such as two photon photopolymerization(8). It can be used for many applications such as tissue engineering(9-13), biosensor microfabrication(14-16) and as a tool to answer basic biological questions such as influences of co-culturing of different cell types(17). Unlike common photolithographic or soft-lithographic methods, extrusion bioprinting has the advantage that it does not require a separate mask or stamp. Using CAD software, the design of the structure can quickly be changed and adjusted according to the requirements of the operator. This makes bioprinting more flexible than lithography-based approaches. Here we demonstrate the printing of a sacrificial mold to create a multi-material 3D structure using an array of pillars within a hydrogel as an example. These pillars could represent hollow structures for a vascular network or the tubes within a nerve guide conduit. The material chosen for the sacrificial mold was poloxamer 407, a thermoresponsive polymer with excellent printing properties which is liquid at 4 °C and a solid above its gelation temperature ~20 °C for 24.5% w/v solutions(18). This property allows the poloxamer-based sacrificial mold to be eluted on demand and has advantages over the slow dissolution of a solid material especially for narrow geometries. Poloxamer was printed on microscope glass slides to create the sacrificial mold. Agarose was pipetted into the mold and cooled until gelation. After elution of the poloxamer in ice cold water, the voids in the agarose mold were filled with alginate methacrylate spiked with FITC labeled fibrinogen. The filled voids were then cross-linked with UV and the construct was imaged with an epi-fluorescence microscope.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Alginates / chemistry
  • Bioprinting / instrumentation
  • Bioprinting / methods*
  • Cell Culture Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Dermoscopy
  • Fibrinogen / chemistry
  • Fluorescein-5-isothiocyanate / chemistry
  • Hot Temperature
  • Hydrogels / chemistry*
  • Methacrylates / chemistry
  • Poloxamer / chemistry
  • Sepharose / chemistry


  • Alginates
  • Hydrogels
  • Methacrylates
  • Poloxamer
  • Fibrinogen
  • Sepharose
  • Fluorescein-5-isothiocyanate