Dual-Material 3D-Printed Intestinal Model Devices with Integrated Villi-like Scaffolds

Nayere Taebnia, Rujing Zhang, Emil B Kromann, Alireza Dolatshahi-Pirouz, Thomas L Andresen*, Niels B. Larsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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In vitro small intestinal models aim to mimic the in vivo intestinal function and structure, including the villi architecture of the native tissue. Accurate models in a scalable format are in great demand to advance, for example, the development of orally administered pharmaceutical products. Widely used planar intestinal cell monolayers for compound screening applications fail to recapitulate the three-dimensional (3D) microstructural characteristics of the intestinal villi arrays. This study employs stereolithographic 3D printing to manufacture biocompatible hydrogel-based scaffolds with villi-like micropillar arrays of tunable dimensions in poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylates (PEGDAs). The resulting 3D-printed microstructures are demonstrated to support a month-long culture and induce apicobasal polarization of Caco-2 epithelial cell layers along the villus axis, similar to the native intestinal microenvironment. Transport analysis requires confinement of compound transport to the epithelial cell layer within a compound diffusion-closed reservoir compartment. We meet this challenge by sequential printing of PEGDAs of different molecular weights into a monolithic device, where a diffusion-open villus-structured hydrogel bottom supports the cell culture and mass transport within the confines of a diffusion-closed solid wall. As a functional demonstrator of this scalable dual-material 3D micromanufacturing technology, we show that Caco-2 cells seeded in villi-wells form a tight epithelial barrier covering the villi-like micropillars and that compound-induced challenges to the barrier integrity can be monitored by standard high-throughput analysis tools (fluorescent tracer diffusion and transepithelial electrical resistance).
Original languageEnglish
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number49
Pages (from-to)58434–58446
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • 3D tissue models
  • Hydrogels
  • Intestinal barrier
  • Multi-material 3D printing
  • Stereolithography
  • Villi


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