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Optimization of the Rheological Properties of Self-Assembled Tripeptide/Alginate/Cellulose Hydrogels for 3D Printing

3D printing is an emerging and powerful technique to create shape-defined three-dimensional structures for tissue engineering applications. Herein, different alginate–cellulose formulations were optimized to be used as printable inks. Alginate (Alg) was chosen as the main component of the scaffold due to its tunable mechanical properties, rapid gelation, and non-toxicity, whereas microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) was added to the hydrogel to modulate its mechanical properties for printing. Additionally, Fmoc-FFY (Fmoc: 9-fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl; F: phenylalanine; Y: tyrosine), a self-assembled peptide that promotes cell adhesion was incorporated into the ink without modifying its rheological properties and shear-thinning behavior. Then, 3D-printed scaffolds made of Alg, 40% of MCC inks and Fmoc-FFY peptide were characterized by scanning electron microscopy and infrared spectroscopy, confirming the morphological microstructure of the hydrogel scaffolds with edged particles of MCC homogeneously distributed within the alginate matrix and the self-assembly of the peptide in a β-sheet conformation. Finally, the cytocompatibility of the scaffolds was tested in contact with the MG63 osteosarcoma cells, confirming the absence of cytotoxic components that may compromise their viability. Interestingly, MG63 cell growth was retarded in the scaffolds containing the peptide, but cells were more likely to promote adhesive interactions with the material rather than with the other cells, indicating the benefits of the peptide in promoting biological functionality to alginate-based biomaterials.

Publication date: 30/05/2022

Author: Alejandro Hernández-Sosa

Reference: doi: 10.3390/polym14112229

MDPI (polymers)


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.