Micro-scale printing and patterning of living cells has multiple applications including tissue engineering, cell signaling assays, and the fabrication of cell-based biosensors. In this work, a molecular printing instrument, the Bioforce Nano eNabler, was modified to enable micron-scale -quill-pen based printing of mammalian cells in a 3D hyaluronan/gelatin based hydrogel. Specifically, photo-initiated -thiol-ene click chemistry was used to couple the thiol groups of thiolated hyaluronan/thiolated gelatin to the alkene groups of 4-arm polyethylene glycol (PEG)-norbornene molecules. Rapid photopolymerization enabled direct printing and controlled curing of living cells within the hydrogel matrix. The resulting hydrogels were biocompatible with human adipose-derived stem cells, NIH-3T3 cells, and mouse embryonic stem cells. The utility of this printing approach was also explored for cell-based biosensors. Micro-printed cells expressing a redox sensitive variant of the green fluorescent protein (roGFP-R12) showed a measurable fluorescent response to addition of oxidizing and then reducing agents. This work represents a novel approach to micron-scale cell patterning, and its potential for living, cell-based biosensors.
Keywords: Irgacure; PEG norbornene; ROS; biosensor; gelatin; hyaluronan; hyaluronic acid; hydrogel; microprinting; reactive oxygen species; roGFP-R12.