A ‘NICE’ approach to bioprinting: novel bioink serves as a platform for anatomical-scale functional tissues

Researchers at Texas A&M University (TX, USA) have announced success in the development of a novel bioink which they claim could be used to develop anatomical-scale, functional tissues.

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A team of researchers from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University (TX, USA) has announced success in the development of a novel, highly printable bioink that could serve as a platform for the subsequent development of anatomical-scale, functional tissues.

The next milestone in 3D bioprinting is the maturation of bioprinted constructs toward the generation of functional tissues,” Associate Professor Akhilesh Gaharwar (Texas A&M University) explained.

Our study demonstrates that NICE bioink developed in our lab can be used to engineer 3D-functional bone tissues,” Gaharwar added.

Described in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, the team reports ‘Nanoengineered Ionic-Covalent Entanglement’ (NICE) bioinks to be more structurally stable and appropriate or eventual clinical applications.

Traditionally, the team further reports, bioinks containing cell-laden biomaterials - serving as cell carriers as well as structural components - have lacked adequate biocompatibility, structural stability, printability and even the fundamental tissue-specific functions required for a future translation of the technology into a clinical environment.


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To combat these limitations, the team at Texas A&M University is developing an advanced family of NICE bioinks utilizing a combination of two reinforcement techniques, nonreinforcement and ionic-covalent network. The tandem use of these two techniques reportedly provides more effective reinforcement, leading to stronger bioprinted structures.

Following bioprinting, crosslinking the NICE networks forms even stronger structures, which has led to the team reporting success in the production of anatomical-scale human tissues including blood vessels, ears, cartilage and even segments of bone, suggesting future opportunities for use in orthopedics, for example, in the production of patient-specific bone grafts.

The team observed soon after bioprinting that the enclosed cells had started to deposit fresh proteins, rich in a cartilage-like extracellular matrix. Over a 3-month period, this later calcified to form mineralized bone. The team further reported that almost 5% of the bioprinted scaffolds contained calcium, a positive indicator that they had successfully developed bone similar to cancellous bone.

The final step in this process was the use of RNA-seq to understand how the NICE bioprinted structures induced stem cell differentiation.

The team plans to later demonstrate functionality of the NICE 3D-bioprinted bone tissue structures in vivo.

Sources: Chimene D, Miller L, Cross LM, Jaiswal MK, Singh I, Gaharwar AK. Nanoengineered osteoinductive bioink for 3D bioprinting bone tissue. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces. 12(14), 15976–15988 (2020); https://engineering.tamu.edu/news/2020/05/gaharwar-lab-engineers-3d-functional-bone-tissues.html?_ga=2.16658742.163891606.1589885514-2127457081.1589885514

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