Bioprinting is an emerging technique for the fabrication of 3D cell-laden constructs. However, the progress for generating a 3D complex physiological microenvironment has been hampered by a lack of advanced cell-responsive bioinks that enable bioprinting with high structural fidelity, particularly in the case of extrusion-based bioprinting. Herein, this paper reports a novel strategy to directly bioprint cell-laden gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA) constructs using bioinks of GelMA physical gels (GPGs) achieved through a simple cooling process. Attributed to their shear-thinning and self-healing properties, the GPG bioinks can retain the shape and form integral structures after deposition, allowing for subsequent UV crosslinking for permanent stabilization. This paper shows the structural fidelity by bioprinting various 3D structures that are typically challenging to fabricate using conventional bioinks under extrusion modes. Moreover, the use of the GPG bioinks enables direct bioprinting of highly porous and soft constructs at relatively low concentrations (down to 3%) of GelMA. It is also demonstrated that the bioprinted constructs not only permit cell survival but also enhance cell proliferation as well as spreading at lower concentrations of the GPG bioinks. It is believed that such a strategy of bioprinting will provide many opportunities in convenient fabrication of 3D cell-laden constructs for applications in tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and pharmaceutical screening.
Keywords: bioprinting; cell-laden; gelatin methacryloyl; hydrogels; tissue engineering.
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