Optimization of mechanical stiffness and cell density of 3D bioprinted cell-laden scaffolds improves extracellular matrix mineralization and cellular organization for bone tissue engineering
- Journal Article
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Bioprinting is an emerging technology in which cell-laden biomaterials are precisely dispersed to engineer artificial tissues that mimic aspects of the anatomical and structural complexity of relatively soft tissues such as skin, vessels, and cartilage. However, reproducing the highly mineralized and cellular diversity of bone tissue is still not easily achievable and is yet to be demonstrated. Here, an extrusion-based 3D bioprinting strategy is utilized to fabricate 3D bone-like tissue constructs containing osteogenic cellular organization. A simple and low-cost bioink for 3D bioprinting of bone-like tissue is prepared based on two unmodified polymers (alginate and gelatin) and combined with human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). To form 3D bone-like tissue and bone cell phenotype, the influence of different scaffold stiffness and cell density of 3D bioprinted cell-laden porous scaffolds on osteogenic differentiation and bone-like tissue formation was investigated over time. Our results showed that soft scaffolds (0.8%alg, 0.66 ± 0.08 kPa) had higher DNA content, enhanced ALP activity and stimulated osteogenic differentiation than stiff scaffolds (1.8%alg, 5.4 ± 1.2 kPa). At day 42, significantly more mineralized tissue was formed in soft scaffolds than in stiff scaffolds (43.5 ± 7.1 mm3 vs. 22.6 ± 6.0 mm3). Importantly, immunohistochemistry staining demonstrated more osteocalcin protein expression in high mineral compared to low mineral regions. Additionally, cells in soft scaffolds exhibited osteoblast- and early osteocyte-related gene expression and 3D cellular network within the mineralized matrix at day 42. Furthermore, the results showed that cell density in 15 M cells/ml can promote cell-cell connections at day 7 and mineral formation at day 14, while 5 M cells/ml had the significantly higher mineral formation rate than 15 M cells/ml from day 14 to day 21. In summary, this work reports the formation of 3D bioprinted bone-like tissue using a simple and low-cost cell-laden bioink, which was optimized for stiffness and cell density, showing great promise for bone tissue engineering applications. Statement of Significance: In this study, we presented for the first time a framework combining 3D bioprinting, bioreactor system and time-lapsed micro-CT monitoring to provide in vitro scaffold fabrication, maturation, and mineral visualization for bone tissue engineering. 3D bone-like tissue constructs have been formed via optimizing scaffold stiffness and cell density. The soft scaffolds had higher cell proliferation, enhanced alkaline phosphatase activity and stimulated osteogenic differentiation with 3D cellular network foramtion than stiff scaffolds. Significantly more mineralized bone-like tissue was formed in soft scaffolds than stiff scaffolds at day 42. Meanwhile, cell density in 15 M cells/ml can promote cell-cell connections and mineral formation in 14 days, while the higher mineral formation rate was found in 5 M cells/ml from day 14 to day 21. © 2020 Acta Materialia Inc. Show more
Journal / seriesActa Biomaterialia
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