A photo-crosslinkable cartilage-derived extracellular matrix (ECM) bioink for auricular cartilage tissue engineering

Dafydd O. Visscher, Hyeongjin Lee, Paul P.M. van Zuijlen, Marco N. Helder, Anthony Atala, James J. Yoo, Sang Jin Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting of patient-specific auricular cartilage constructs could aid in the reconstruction process of traumatically injured or congenitally deformed ear cartilage. To achieve this, a hydrogel-based bioink is required that recapitulates the complex cartilage microenvironment. Tissue-derived decellularized extracellular matrix (dECM)-based hydrogels have been used as bioinks for cell-based 3D bioprinting because they contain tissue-specific ECM components that play a vital role in cell adhesion, growth, and differentiation. In this study, porcine auricular cartilage tissues were isolated and decellularized, and the decellularized cartilage tissues were characterized by histology, biochemical assay, and proteomics. This cartilage-derived dECM (cdECM) was subsequently processed into a photo-crosslinkable hydrogel using methacrylation (cdECMMA) and mixed with chondrocytes to create a printable bioink. The rheological properties, printability, and in vitro biological properties of the cdECMMA bioink were examined. The results showed cdECM was obtained with complete removal of cellular components while preserving major ECM proteins. After methacrylation, the cdECMMA bioinks were printed in anatomical ear shape and exhibited adequate mechanical properties and structural integrity. Specifically, auricular chondrocytes in the printed cdECMMA hydrogel constructs maintained their viability and proliferation capacity and eventually produced cartilage ECM components, including collagen and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). The potential of cell-based bioprinting using this cartilage-specific dECMMA bioink is demonstrated as an alternative option for auricular cartilage reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

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