Printability and Cell Viability in Bioprinting Alginate Dialdehyde- Gelatin Scaffolds

Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting is a promising technique used to fabricate scaffolds from hydrogels with living cells. However, the printability of hydrogels in bioprinting has not been adequately studied. The aim of this study was to quantitatively characterize the printability and cell viability of alginate dialdehyde (ADA)-gelatin (Gel) hydrogels for bioprinting. ADA-Gel hydrogels of various concentrations were synthesized and characterized using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, along with rheological tests for measuring storage and loss moduli. Scaffolds (with an area of 11 × 11 mm) of 1, 2, and 13 layers were fabricated from ADA-Gel hydrogels using a 3D-bioplotter under printing conditions with and without the use of cross-linker, respectively, at room temperature and at 4 °C. Scaffolds were then quantitatively assessed in terms of the minimum printing pressure, quality of strands and pores, and structural integrity, which were combined together for the characterization of ADA-Gel printability. For the assessment of cell viability, scaffolds were bioprinted from ADA-Gel hydrogels with human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and rat Schwann cells and were then examined at day 7 with live/dead assay. HUVECs and Schwann cells were used as models to demonstrate biocompatibility for potential angiogenesis and nerve repair applications, respectively. Our results illustrated that ADA-Gel hydrogels with a loss tangent (ratio of loss modulus over storage modulus) between 0.24 and 0.28 could be printed in cross-linker with the best printability featured by uniform strands, square pores, and good structural integrity. Additionally, our results revealed that ADA-Gel hydrogels with an appropriate printability could maintain cell viability over 7 days. Combined together, this study presents a novel method to characterize the printability of hydrogels in bioprinting and illustrates that ADA-Gel hydrogels can be synthesized and bioprinted with good printability and cell viability, thus demonstrating their suitability for bioprinting scaffolds in tissue engineering applications.