Functional 3D Neural Mini-Tissues from Printed Gel-Based Bioink and Human Neural Stem Cells

Direct-write printing of stem cells within biomaterials presents an opportunity to engineer tissue for in vitro modeling and regenerative medicine. Here, a first example of constructing neural tissue by printing human neural stem cells that are differentiated in situ to functional neurons and supporting neuroglia is reported. The supporting biomaterial incorporates a novel clinically relevant polysaccharide-based bioink comprising alginate, carboxymethyl-chitosan, and agarose. The printed bioink rapidly gels by stable cross-linking to form a porous 3D scaffold encapsulating stem cells for in situ expansion and differentiation. Differentiated neurons form synaptic contacts, establish networks, are spontaneously active, show a bicuculline-induced increased calcium response, and are predominantly gamma-aminobutyric acid expressing. The 3D tissues will facilitate investigation of human neural development, function, and disease, and may be adaptable for engineering other 3D tissues from different stem cell types.