Research ArticleBIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

Three-dimensional printing of complex biological structures by freeform reversible embedding of suspended hydrogels

Science Advances  23 Oct 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 9, e1500758
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500758

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Abstract

We demonstrate the additive manufacturing of complex three-dimensional (3D) biological structures using soft protein and polysaccharide hydrogels that are challenging or impossible to create using traditional fabrication approaches. These structures are built by embedding the printed hydrogel within a secondary hydrogel that serves as a temporary, thermoreversible, and biocompatible support. This process, termed freeform reversible embedding of suspended hydrogels, enables 3D printing of hydrated materials with an elastic modulus <500 kPa including alginate, collagen, and fibrin. Computer-aided design models of 3D optical, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging data were 3D printed at a resolution of ~200 μm and at low cost by leveraging open-source hardware and software tools. Proof-of-concept structures based on femurs, branched coronary arteries, trabeculated embryonic hearts, and human brains were mechanically robust and recreated complex 3D internal and external anatomical architectures.

Keywords
  • 3D printing
  • hydrogels
  • tissue engineering
  • alginate
  • collagen
  • fibrin
  • heart
  • perfusable vasculature
  • biomimetic

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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