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Biofabrication. 2016 Jul 19;8(3):035003. doi: 10.1088/1758-5090/8/3/035003.

Yield stress determines bioprintability of hydrogels based on gelatin-methacryloyl and gellan gum for cartilage bioprinting.

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Department of Orthopaedics, University Medical Center Utrecht, PO Box 85500, 3508 GA Utrecht, T he Netherlands.


Bioprinting of chondrocyte-laden hydrogels facilitates the fabrication of constructs with controlled organization and shape e.g. for articular cartilage implants. Gelatin-methacryloyl (gelMA) supplemented with gellan gum is a promising bio-ink. However, the rheological properties governing the printing process, and the influence of gellan gum on the mechanical properties and chondrogenesis of the blend, are still unknown. Here, we investigated the suitability of gelMA/gellan for cartilage bioprinting. Multiple concentrations, ranging from 3% to 20% gelMA with 0%-1.5% gellan gum, were evaluated for their printability, defined as the ability to form filaments and to incorporate cells at 15 °C-37 °C. To support the printability assessment, yield stress and viscosity of the hydrogels were measured. Stiffness of UV-cured constructs, as well as cartilage-like tissue formation by embedded chondrocytes, were determined in vitro. A large range of gelMA/gellan concentrations were printable with inclusion of cells and formed the bioprinting window. The addition of gellan gum improved filament deposition by inducing yielding behavior, increased construct stiffness and supported chondrogenesis. High gellan gum concentrations, however, did compromise cartilage matrix production and distribution, and even higher concentrations resulted in too high yield stresses to allow cell encapsulation. This study demonstrates the high potential of gelMA/gellan blends for cartilage bioprinting and identifies yield stress as a dominant factor for bioprintability.

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