New Functional Hydrogels Created From 3D Printed Embryonic Stem Cells

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Three-dimensional (3D) printing technology has emerged, in the last few years, as an attractive option for regenerative medicine, owing to its promise of generating custom cell scaffolds, and potentially fabricate tissues, by placing cells in an environment – which is generally a growth medium – that supports their growth and proliferation. Once a technology mostly for printing mechanical constructs, 3D printing has crossed over into biomedicine.

Now, for the first time, a new study described the use of 3D printing technology to generate three-dimensional hydrogel scaffolds made of stem cells. Dr. Wei Sun and his lab at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Drexel University authored the study that described using an extrusion-based 3D bioprinting approach developed in their lab. In microextrusion, structures are printed in 2D with hydrogel and the material is then made solid so the structures can be combined to create 3D shapes.

The authors printed embryonic stem cells into hydrogels in 3D grid-like patterns, shown in the image below.

The manuscript was published in Bioprinting.


stem cell grid-crop
Bioprinted cell-scaffold composite in a grid-like pattern.


The authors observed the cells to successfully proliferate into spheroid embryoid bodies in the hydrogel construct. The protein expression and expression of pluripotent genetic markers (OCT4, SSEA1, nanog and Antigen 1) was successfully observed.

The authors also postulate that the 3D hydrogel/ESC construct’s utility lies not only in its use as a potentially sophisticated 3D scaffold to study differentiation of ESCs in 3D environments, but also as a cell culture substrate, owing to its ability to generate large numbers of ESCs rapidly.


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