Facile Cell-Friendly Hollow-Core Fiber Diffusion-Limited Photofabrication

Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2021 Dec 3:9:783834. doi: 10.3389/fbioe.2021.783834. eCollection 2021.


Bioprinting emerges as a powerful flexible approach for tissue engineering with prospective capability to produce tissue on demand, including biomimetic hollow-core fiber structures. In spite of significance for tissue engineering, hollow-core structures proved difficult to fabricate, with the existing methods limited to multistage, time-consuming, and cumbersome procedures. Here, we report a versatile cell-friendly photopolymerization approach that enables single-step prototyping of hollow-core as well as solid-core hydrogel fibers initially loaded with living cells. This approach was implemented by extruding cell-laden hyaluronic acid glycidyl methacrylate hydrogel directly into aqueous solution containing free radicals generated by continuous blue light photoexcitation of the flavin mononucleotide/triethanolamine photoinitiator. Diffusion of free radicals from the solution to the extruded structure initiated cross-linking of the hydrogel, progressing from the structure surface inwards. Thus, the cross-linked wall is formed and its thickness is limited by penetration of free radicals in the hydrogel volume. After developing in water, the hollow-core fiber is formed with centimeter range of lengths. Amazingly, HaCaT cells embedded in the hydrogel successfully go through the fabrication procedure. The broad size ranges have been demonstrated: from solid core to 6% wall thickness of the outer diameter, which was variable from sub-millimeter to 6 mm, and Young's modulus ∼1.6 ± 0.4 MPa. This new proof-of-concept fibers photofabrication approach opens lucrative opportunities for facile three-dimensional fabrication of hollow-core biostructures with controllable geometry.

Keywords: cell-laden hydrogel; flavin mononucleotide; hollow-core fiber; hyaluronic acid; photofabrication; photopolymerization; radical diffusion; vessel engineering.