Multimaterial Dual Gradient Three-Dimensional Printing for Osteogenic Differentiation and Spatial Segregation

In this study of three-dimensional (3D) printed composite β-tricalcium phosphate (β-TCP)-/hydroxyapatite/poly(ɛ-caprolactone)-based constructs, the effects of vertical compositional ceramic gradients and architectural porosity gradients on the osteogenic differentiation of rabbit bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were investigated. Specifically, three different concentrations of β-TCP (0, 10, and 20 wt%) and three different porosities (33% ± 4%, 50% ± 4%, and 65% ± 3%) were examined to elucidate the contributions of chemical and physical gradients on the biochemical behavior of MSCs and the mineralized matrix production within a 3D culture system. By delaminating the constructs at the gradient transition point, the spatial separation of cellular phenotypes could be specifically evaluated for each construct section. Results indicated that increased concentrations of β-TCP resulted in upregulation of osteogenic markers, including alkaline phosphatase activity and mineralized matrix development. Furthermore, MSCs located within regions of higher porosity displayed a more mature osteogenic phenotype compared to MSCs in lower porosity regions. These results demonstrate that 3D printing can be leveraged to create multiphasic gradient constructs to precisely direct the development and function of MSCs, leading to a phenotypic gradient.