Engineering 3D degradable, pliable scaffolds toward adipose tissue regeneration; optimized printability, simulations and surface modification

We present a solution to regenerate adipose tissue using degradable, soft, pliable 3D-printed scaffolds made of a medical-grade copolymer coated with polydopamine. The problem today is that while printing, the medical grade copolyesters degrade and the scaffolds become very stiff and brittle, being not optimal for adipose tissue defects. Herein, we have used high molar mass poly(L-lactide-co-trimethylene carbonate) (PLATMC) to engineer scaffolds using a direct extrusion-based 3D printer, the 3D Bioplotter®. Our approach was first focused on how the printing influences the polymer and scaffold’s mechanical properties, then on exploring different printing designs and, in the end, on assessing surface functionalization. Finite element analysis revealed that scaffold’s mechanical properties vary according to the gradual degradation of the polymer as a consequence of the molar mass decrease during printing. Considering this, we defined optimal printing parameters to minimize material’s degradation and printed scaffolds with different designs. We subsequently functionalized one scaffold design with polydopamine coating and conducted in vitro cell studies. Results showed that polydopamine augmented stem cell proliferation and adipogenic differentiation owing to increased surface hydrophilicity. Thus, the present research show that the medical grade PLATMC based scaffolds are a potential candidate towards the development of implantable, resorbable, medical devices for adipose tissue regeneration.