Novel strategy for multi-material 3D bioprinting of human stem cell based corneal stroma with heterogenous design

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Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting offers an automated, customizable solution to manufacture highly detailed 3D tissue constructs and holds great promise for regenerative medicine to solve the severe global shortage of donor tissues and organs. However, uni-material 3D bioprinting is not sufficient for manufacturing heterogenous 3D constructs with native-like microstructures and thus, innovative multi-material solutions are required. Here, we developed a novel multi-material 3D bioprinting strategy for bioprinting human corneal stroma. The human cornea is the transparent outer layer of your eye, and vision loss due to corneal blindness has serious effects on the quality of life of individuals. One of the main reasons for corneal blindness is the damage in the detailed organization of the corneal stroma where collagen fibrils are arranged in layers perpendicular to each other and the corneal stromal cells grow along the fibrils. Donor corneas for treating corneal blindness are scarce, and the current tissue engineering (TE) technologies cannot produce artificial corneas with the complex microstructure of native corneal stroma. To address this, we developed a novel multi-material 3D bioprinting strategy to mimic detailed organization of corneal stroma. These multi-material 3D structures with heterogenous design were bioprinted by using human adipose tissue -derived stem cells (hASCs) and hyaluronic acid (HA) -based bioinks with varying stiffnesses. In our novel design of 3D models, acellular stiffer HA-bioink and cell-laden softer HA-bioink were printed in alternating filaments, and the filaments were printed perpendicularly in alternating layers. The multi-material bioprinting strategy was applied for the first time in corneal stroma 3D bioprinting to mimic the native microstructure. As a result, the soft bioink promoted cellular growth and tissue formation of hASCs in the multi-material 3D bioprinted composites, whereas the stiff bioink provided mechanical support as well as guidance of cellular organization upon culture. Interestingly, cellular growth and tissue formation altered the mechanical properties of the bioprinted composite constructs significantly. Importantly, the bioprinted composite structures showed good integration to the host tissue in ex vivo cornea organ culture model. As a conclusion, the developed multi-material bioprinting strategy provides great potential as a biofabrication solution for manufacturing organized, heterogenous microstructures of native tissues. To the best of our knowledge, this multi-material bioprinting strategy has never been applied in corneal bioprinting. Therefore, our work advances the technological achievements in additive manufacturing and brings the field of corneal TE to a new level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100924
JournalMaterials Today Bio
Early online date22 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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