BiofabricationBioinksBioprintingResearch & Education

Scientists combine hydrogels and fibers in novel 3D printing technique

The research from the University of Bayreuth researchers enables the production of constructs with fibrous structures and uniaxial cell alignment

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According to the University of Bayreuth, Prof. Dr. Leonid Ionov and his team have developed a new type of 3D printing technology that combines hydrogels and fibers. The innovative process enables the production of constructs with fibrous structures and uniaxial cell alignment. The research results, published in the journal ‘Advanced Healthcare Materials’, harbor potential for the artificial production of biological tissue.

Prof. Ionov, a Professor of Biofabrication, and his team extensively tested various types of hydrogels –  water-retaining and also water-insoluble polymers – for the 3D printing of tissues. The cell-containing hydrogels, also known as bio-inks, are combined with fibers to create a composite material – achieved by using 3D printing with an integrated touch-spinning process. The University of Bayreuth scientists have now combined 3D bioprinting technology with touch-spinning technology in a single device for the first time.

University of Bayreuth scientists combine hydrogels and fibers to produce constructs with fibrous structures and uniaxial cell alignment.“The insights gained in this study are of great importance for the production of tissues and in particular tissues with fibrous structures and uniaxial alignment of cells such as connective and muscle tissue,” said Prof. Ionov.

The report on the novel approach for the production of multilayer bio-ink fiber composites was produced in partnership with Prof. Dr. Dr. Elisabetta Ada Cavalcanti-Adam, Chair of Cellular Biomechanics, Waseem Kitana, a Ph.D. student at the Chair of Biofabrication, and their colleague Dr. Victoria Levario-Diaz from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research.

The University of Bayreuth scientists experimented with various hydrogels – which have been widely used as scaffold materials in the fields of tissue engineering and biofabrication for decades – and compared their properties. The combination of a hydrogel system with a fiber system reduces the processing requirements for hydrogels, such as cross-linking to improve their mechanical properties, as the mechanical properties of these composite materials are covered by the fiber system.

The requirement for a low degree of cross-linking is advantageous for subsequent tissue formation. “The hydrogel provides the cells with an aqueous environment that promotes the good functioning of the cells, while the fibers should control the orientation of the cells along the main direction of the fiber,” said Prof. Ionov.

Building on the invention of the new and already patented device that combines these two techniques, the scientists have founded the start-up ‘biovature GmbH’ under the leadership of PD Dr. habil. Alla Synytska, the Co-founder and CEO.

The German Research Foundation (DFG) research cluster SFB/TRR 225 provided financial support for the research.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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