Hydrogels with low viscosities tend to be difficult to use in constructing tissue engineering (TE) scaffolds used to replace or restore damaged tissue, due to the length of time it takes for final gelation to take place resulting in the scaffolds collapsing due to their mechanical instability. However, recent advances in rapid prototyping have allowed for a new technology called bioplotting to be developed, which aims to circumvent these inherent problems. This paper aims to present details of the process.
The paper demonstrates how by using the bioplotting technique complex 3D geometrical scaffolds with accurate feature sizes and good pore definition can be fabriated for use as biological matrices. PEG gels containing the cell‐adhesive RGD peptide sequence were patterned using this method to produce layers of directional microchannels which have a functionalised bioactive surface. Seeding these gels with C2C12 myoblasts showed that the cells responded to the topographical features and aligned themselves along the direction of the channels.
This process allows plotting of various materials into a media bath containing material of similar rheological properties which can be used to both support the structure as it is dispensed and also to initiate cross‐linking of the hydrogel. By controlling concentrations, viscosity and the temperature of both the plotting material and the plotting media, the speed of the hydrogel gelation can be enhanced whilst it is cross‐linking in the media bath. TE scaffolds have been produced using a variety of materials including poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), gelatin, alginic acid and agarose at various concentrations and viscosities.
This paper describes one of the very few examples of accurate construction of 3D biological microporous matrices using hydrogel material fabricated by the bioplotting technique. This demonstrates that this technique can be used to produce 3D scaffolds which promote tissue regeneration.