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3D printing of hydrogels in a temperature controlled environment with high spatial resolution

: Fischer, B.; Schulz, A.; Gepp, M.M.; Neubauer, J.; Gentile, L.; Zimmermann, H.

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Current directions in biomedical engineering 2 (2016), Nr.1, S.109-112
ISSN: 2364-5504
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer IBMT ()

There is great hope in 3D printing techniques to create patient specific scaffolds for therapeutic applications. The majority of these approaches rely on materials that both give support to cells and effectively mimic a tissue specific microenvironment. Hydrogels provide an exceptional support for cells but their physicochemical properties are not suited for conventional additive layer manufacturing. Their low viscosity and resulting fluidic nature inhibit voluminous 3D deposition and lead to crude printing accuracy. To enhance mechanical features, hydrogels are often chemically modified and/or mixed with additives; however it is not clear whether these changes induce effects on cellular behavior or if in vivo applications are at risk. Certainly it increases the complexity of scaffold systems. To circumvent these obstacles, we aimed for a 3D printing technique which is capable of creating scaffolds out of unmodified, pure hydrogels. Here we present a new method to produce alginate scaffolds in a viscosity- independent manner with high spatial resolution. This is achieved by printing in a sub-zero environment which leads to fast freezing of the hydrogels, thus preserving the printed shape and circumventing any viscosity dependent flows. This enables the user to create scaffolds which are able to reflect soft or stiff cell niches.