Matching mechanical heterogeneity of the native spinal cord augments axon infiltration in 3D-printed scaffolds

Kiet A. Tran, Brandon J. DeOre, David Ikejiani, Kristen Means, Louis S. Paone, Laura De Marchi, Łukasz Suprewicz, Katarina Koziol, Julien Bouyer, Fitzroy J. Byfield, Ying Jin, Penelope Georges, Itzhak Fischer, Paul A. Janmey, Peter A. Galie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Scaffolds delivered to injured spinal cords to stimulate axon connectivity often match the anisotropy of native tissue using guidance cues along the rostral-caudal axis, but current approaches do not mimic the heterogeneity of host tissue mechanics. Although white and gray matter have different mechanical properties, it remains unclear whether tissue mechanics also vary along the length of the cord. Mechanical testing performed in this study indicates that bulk spinal cord mechanics do differ along anatomical level and that these differences are caused by variations in the ratio of white and gray matter. These results suggest that scaffolds recreating the heterogeneity of spinal cord tissue mechanics must account for the disparity between gray and white matter. Digital light processing (DLP) provides a means to mimic spinal cord topology, but has previously been limited to printing homogeneous mechanical properties. We describe a means to modify DLP to print scaffolds that mimic spinal cord mechanical heterogeneity caused by variation in the ratio of white and gray matter, which improves axon infiltration compared to controls exhibiting homogeneous mechanical properties. These results demonstrate that scaffolds matching the mechanical heterogeneity of white and gray matter improve the effectiveness of biomaterials transplanted within the injured spinal cord.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number122061
StatePublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Bioengineering
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials


  • 3D-printing
  • Axon regeneration
  • Digital light processing
  • Rheology
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Tissue engineering


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