The Pennsylvania State University,
Keywords: granular hydrogels, microgels, tissue engineering, scaffolds, bioprinting, regenerative engineering
Summary:The emergence of granular hydrogel scaffolds (GHS), fabricated via assembling hydrogel microparticles (HMPs), has enabled microporous scaffold formation in situ. Unlike conventional bulk hydrogels, interconnected microscale pores in GHS facilitate degradation-independent cell infiltration as well as oxygen, nutrient, and cellular byproduct transfer. Methacryloyl-modified gelatin (GelMA), a (photo)chemically crosslinkable, protein-based biopolymer containing cell adhesive and biodegradable moieties, has widely been used as a cell-responsive/instructive biomaterial. Converting bulk GelMA to GHS may open a plethora of opportunities for tissue engineering and regeneration. In this talk, we discuss the procedures of high-throughput GelMA microgel fabrication, conversion to resuspendable dry microgels (micro-aerogels), GHS formation via the chemical assembly of microgels, and granular bioink fabrication for extrusion bioprinting. We show how a sequential physicochemical treatment via cooling and photocrosslinking enables the formation of mechanically robust GHS. When light is inaccessible (e.g., during deep tissue injection), individually crosslinked GelMA HMPs may be bioorthogonally assembled via enzymatic crosslinking using transglutaminases. Finally, three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting of microporous GHS at low HMP packing density is demonstrated via the interfacial self-assembly of heterogeneously charged nanoparticles.