Quantitative criteria to benchmark new and existing bio-inks for cell compatibility.

PMID 28812982


Recent advancements in 3D bioprinting have led to the fabrication of more complex, more precise, and larger printed tissue constructs. As the field continues to advance, it is critical to develop quantitative benchmarks to compare different bio-inks for key cell-biomaterial interactions, including (1) cell sedimentation within the ink cartridge, (2) cell viability during extrusion, and (3) cell viability after ink curing. Here we develop three simple protocols for quantitative analysis of bio-ink performance. These methods are used to benchmark the performance of two commonly used bio-inks, poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) and gelatin methacrylate (GelMA), against three formulations of a novel bio-ink, Recombinant-protein Alginate Platform for Injectable Dual-crosslinked ink (RAPID ink). RAPID inks undergo peptide-self-assembly to form weak, shear-thinning gels in the ink cartridge and undergo electrostatic crosslinking with divalent cations during curing. In the one hour cell sedimentation assay, GelMA, the RAPID inks, and PEGDA with xanthan gum prevented appreciable cell sedimentation, while PEGDA alone or PEGDA with alginate experienced significant cell settling. To quantify cell viability during printing, 3T3 fibroblasts were printed at a constant flow rate of 75 μl min-1 and immediately tested for cell membrane integrity. Less than 10% of cells were damaged using the PEGDA and GelMA bio-inks, while less than 4% of cells were damaged using the RAPID inks. Finally, to evaluate cell viability after curing, cells were exposed to ink-specific curing conditions for five minutes and tested for membrane integrity. After exposure to light with photoinitiator at ambient conditions, over 50% of cells near the edges of printed PEGDA and GelMA droplets were damaged. In contrast, fewer than 20% of cells found near the edges of RAPID inks were damaged after a 5 min exposure to curing in a 10 mM CaCl2 solution. As new bio-inks continue to be developed, these protocols offer a convenient means to quantitatively benchmark their performance against existing inks.