Multi‐and mixed 3D‐printing of graphene‐hydroxyapatite hybrid materials for complex tissue engineering

Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A 2016 Volume 105, Issue 1, Pages 274–283

With the emergence of 3D-printing (3DP) as a vital tool in tissue engineering and medicine, there is an ever growing need to develop new biomaterials that can be 3D-printed and also emulate the compositional, structural, and functional complexities of human tissues and organs. In this work, we probe the 3D-printable biomaterials spectrum by combining two recently established functional 3D-printable particle-laden biomaterial inks: one that contains hydroxyapatite microspheres (Hyperelastic Bone, HB) and another that contains graphene nanoflakes (3D-Graphene, 3DG). We demonstrate that not only can these distinct, osteogenic and neurogenic inks be co-3D-printed to create complex, multi-material constructs, but that composite inks of HB and 3DG can also be synthesized. Specifically, the printability, microstructural, mechanical, electrical, and biological properties of a hybrid material comprised of 1:1 HA:graphene by volume is investigated. The resulting HB-3DG hybrid exhibits mixed characteristics of the two distinct systems, while maintaining 3D-printability, electrical conductivity, and flexibility. In vitro assessment of HB-3DG using mesenchymal stem cells demonstrates the hybrid material supports cell viability and proliferation, as well as significantly upregulates both osteogenic and neurogenic gene expression over 14 days. This work ultimately demonstrates a significant step forward towards being able to 3D-print graded, multi-compositional, and multi-functional constructs from hybrid inks for complex composite tissue engineering.