Bioinks with shear-thinning/rapid solidification properties and strong mechanics are usually needed for the bioprinting of three-dimensional (3D) cell-laden constructs. As such, it remains challenging to generate soft constructs from bioinks at low concentrations that are favorable for cellular activities. Herein, we report a strategy to fabricate cell-laden constructs with tunable 3D microenvironments achieved by bioprinting of gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA)/alginate core/sheath microfibers, where the alginate sheath serves as a template to support and confine the GelMA pre-hydrogel in the core during the extrusion process, allowing for subsequent UV crosslinking. This novel strategy minimizes the bioprinting requirements for the core bioink, and facilitates the fabrication of cell-laden GelMA constructs at low concentrations. We first showed the capability of generating various alginate hollow microfibrous constructs using a coaxial nozzle setup, and verified the diffusibility and perfusability of the bioprinted hollow structures that are important for the tissue engineering applications. More importantly, the hollow alginate microfibers were then used as templates for generating cell-laden GelMA constructs with soft microenvironments, by using GelMA pre-hydrogel as the bioink for the core phase during bioprinting. As such, GelMA constructs at extremely low concentrations (<2.0%) could be extruded to effectively support cellular activities including proliferation and spreading for various cell types. We believe that our strategy is likely to provide broad opportunities in bioprinting of 3D constructs with cell-favorable microenvironments for applications in tissue engineering and pharmaceutical screening.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering
- gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA)
- tissue engineering