3D Printing in Alginic Acid Bath of In-Situ Crosslinked Collagen Composite Scaffolds

Materials 14.21 (2021): 6720
Priscila Melo, Giorgia Montalbano, Sonia Fiorilli and Chiara Vitale-Brovarone

Bone-tissue regeneration is a growing field, where nanostructured-bioactive materials are designed to replicate the natural properties of the target tissue, and then are processed with technologies such as 3D printing, into constructs that mimic its natural architecture. Type I bovine collagen formulations, containing functional nanoparticles (enriched with therapeutic ions or biomolecules) or nanohydroxyapatite, are considered highly promising, and can be printed using support baths. These baths ensure an accurate deposition of the material, nonetheless their full removal post-printing can be difficult, in addition to undesired reactions with the crosslinking agents often used to improve the final structural integrity of the scaffolds. Such issues lead to partial collapse of the printed constructs and loss of geometrical definition. To overcome these limitations, this work presents a new alternative approach, which consists of adding a suitable concentration of crosslinking agent to the printing formulations to promote the in-situ crosslinking of the constructs prior to the removal of the support bath. To this aim, genipin, chosen as crosslinking agent, was added (0.1 wt.%) to collagen-based biomaterial inks (containing either 38 wt.% mesoporous bioactive glasses or 65 wt.% nanohydroxyapatite), to trigger the crosslinking of collagen and improve the stability of the 3D printed scaffolds in the post-processing step. Moreover, to support the material deposition, a 15 wt.% alginic acid solution was used as a bath, which proved to sustain the printed structures and was also easily removable, allowing for the stable processing of high-resolution geometries.