Mechanically robust cryogels with injectability and bioprinting supportability for adipose tissue engineering

Bioengineered adipose tissues have gained increased interest as a promising alternative to autologous tissue flaps and synthetic adipose fillers for soft tissue augmentation and defect reconstruction in clinic. Although many scaffolding materials and biofabrication methods have been investigated for adipose tissue engineering in the last decades, there are still challenges to recapitulate the appropriate adipose tissue microenvironment, maintain volume stability, and induce vascularization to achieve long-term function and integration. In the present research, we fabricated cryogels consisting of methacrylated gelatin, methacrylated hyaluronic acid, and 4arm poly(ethylene glycol) acrylate (PEG-4A) by using cryopolymerization. The cryogels were repeatedly injectable and stretchable, and the addition of PEG-4A improved the robustness and mechanical properties. The cryogels supported human adipose progenitor cell (HWA) and adipose derived mesenchymal stromal cell adhesion, proliferation, and adipogenic differentiation and maturation, regardless of the addition of PEG-4A. The HWA laden cryogels facilitated the co-culture of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) and capillary-like network formation, which in return also promoted adipogenesis. We further combined cryogels with 3D bioprinting to generate handleable adipose constructs with clinically relevant size. 3D bioprinting enabled the deposition of multiple bioinks onto the cryogels. The bioprinted flap-like constructs had an integrated structure without delamination and supported vascularization.