Bioprinting holds great promise towards engineering functional cardiac tissue constructs for regenerative medicine and as drug test models. However, it is highly limited by the choice of inks that require maintaining a balance between the structure and functional properties associated with the cardiac tissue. In this regard, we have developed a novel and mechanically robust biomaterial-ink based on non-mulberry silk fibroin protein. The silk-based ink demonstrated suitable mechanical properties required in terms of elasticity and stiffness (~40 kPa) for developing clinically relevant cardiac tissue constructs. The ink allowed the fabrication of stable anisotropic scaffolds using a dual crosslinking method, which were able to support formation of aligned sarcomeres, high expression of gap junction proteins as connexin-43, and maintain synchronously beating of cardiomyocytes. The printed constructs were found to be non-immunogenic in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, delving into an innovative method for fabricating a vascularized myocardial tissue-on-a-chip, the silk-based ink was used as supporting hydrogel for encapsulating human induced pluripotent stem cell derived cardiac spheroids (hiPSC-CSs) and creating perfusable vascularized channels via an embedded bioprinting technique. We confirmed the ability of silk-based supporting hydrogel towards maturation and viability of hiPSC-CSs and endothelial cells, and for applications in evaluating drug toxicity.
Keywords: GelMA; Silk; human iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes; organ-on-a-chip; printing.