Three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds are key for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications. 3D printing (3DP) is evolving as a technique for the fabrication of customized scaffolds with precise control over scaffold structure and properties. Within 3DP, bioinks are printed biomaterials with tunable properties and may contain cells, growth factors, and drugs for use in various biomedical applications. However, most of the hydrogels used are polymerized with methyacrylate or other functional groups that may cause unwanted toxicity.
Prof. Huinan Liu’s lab at the University of California, Riverside has developed a novel tunable hydrogel that achieves tunable crosslinking, reversible phase transition, and may be used as a 3DP scaffold. This new hydrogel utilizes dynamic coordination of its innate carboxylic groups and metal ions. Adding methylacrylate or other functional groups is not required for this technology and the resulting hydrogel is less toxic. Since the functionalization of this hydrogel is not required, it is less process-intensive and results in a more cost-effective hydrogel. In addition, the UV curing is no longer needed since methylacrylate is no longer utilized to crosslink the hydrogel.
Fig 1: Optical micrographs of top view and cross-section of HyA hydrogels printed using cold-stage method and direct writing method. Hydrogels printed using direct writing method showed better structural integrity and stability.