Evaluation of PBS Treatment and PEI Coating Effects on Surface Morphology and Cellular Response of 3D-Printed Alginate Scaffolds

Three-dimensional (3D) printing is an emerging technology for the fabrication of scaffolds to repair/replace damaged tissue/organs in tissue engineering. This paper presents our study on 3D printed alginate scaffolds treated with phosphate buffered saline (PBS) and polyethyleneimine (PEI) coating and their impacts on the surface morphology and cellular response of the printed scaffolds. In our study, sterile alginate was prepared by means of the freeze-drying method and then, used to prepare the hydrogel for 3D printing into calcium chloride, forming 3D scaffolds. Scaffolds were treated with PBS for a time period of two days and seven days, respectively, and PEI coating; then they were seeded with Schwann cells (RSC96) for the examination of cellular response (proliferation and differentiation). In addition, swelling and stiffness (Young’s modulus) of the treated scaffolds was evaluated, while their surface morphology was assessed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). SEM images revealed significant changes in scaffold surface morphology due to degradation caused by the PBS treatment over time. Our cell proliferation assessment over seven days showed that a two-day PBS treatment could be more effective than seven-day PBS treatment for improving cell attachment and elongation. While PEI coating of alginate scaffolds seemed to contribute to cell growth, Schwann cells stayed round on the surface of alginate over the period of cell culture. In conclusion, PBS-treatment may offer the potential to induce surface physical cues due to degradation of alginate, which could improve cell attachment post cell-seeding of 3D-printed alginate scaffolds.