Collaborating with dear colleague is create, particularly when the work is this cool! Thanks Brad Willenberg and team for inviting me to be a part of it!
Transforming Capillary Alginate Gel (Capgel) into New 3D-Printing Biomaterial Inks
Three-dimensional (3D) printing has great potential for creating tissues and organs to meet shortfalls in transplant supply, and biomaterial inks are key components of many such approaches. There is a need for biomaterial inks that facilitate integration, infiltration, and vascularization of targeted 3D-printed structures. This study is therefore focused on creating new biomaterial inks from self-assembled capillary alginate gel (Capgel), which possesses a unique microstructure of uniform tubular channels with tunable diameters and densities. First, extrusions of Capgel through needles (0.1–0.8 mm inner diameter) were investigated. It was found that Capgel ink extrudes as slurries of fractured and entangled particles, each retaining capillary microstructures, and that extruded line widths W and particle sizes A were both functions of needle inner diameter D, specifically power-law relationships of W~D0.42 and A~D1.52, respectively. Next, various structures were successfully 3D-printed with Capgel ink, thus demonstrating that this biomaterial ink is stackable and self-supporting. To increase ink self-adherence, Capgel was coated with poly-L-lysine (PLL) to create a cationic “skin” prior to extrusion. It was hypothesized that, during extrusion of Capgel-PLL, the sheared particles fracture and thereby expose cryptic sites of negatively-charged biomaterial capable of forming new polyelectrolyte bonds with areas of the positively-charged PLL skin on neighboring entangled particles. This novel approach resulted in continuous, self-adherent extrusions that remained intact in solution. Human lung fibroblasts (HLFs) were then cultured on this ink to investigate biocompatibility. HLFs readily colonized Capgel-PLL ink and were strongly oriented by the capillary microstructures. This is the first description of successful 3D-printing with Capgel biomaterial ink as well as the first demonstration of the concept and formulation of a self-adherent Capgel-PLL biomaterial ink.