Microgel-Extracellular Matrix Composite Support for the Embedded 3D Printing of Human Neural Constructs

Janko Kajtez, Carmen Radeke, Johan Ulrik Lind, Jenny Emnéus

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The embedded 3D printing of cells inside a granular support medium has emerged in the past decade as a powerful approach for the freeform biofabrication of soft tissue constructs. However, granular gel formulations have been restricted to a limited number of biomaterials that allow for the cost-effective generation of large amounts of hydrogel microparticles. Therefore, granular gel support media have generally lacked the cell-adhesive and cell-instructive functions found in the native extracellular matrix (ECM). To address this, a methodology has been developed for the generation of self-healing annealable particle-extracellular matrix (SHAPE) composites. SHAPE composites consist of a granular phase (microgels) and a continuous phase (viscous ECM solution) that, together, allow for both programmable high-fidelity printing and an adjustable biofunctional extracellular environment. This work describes how the developed methodology can be utilized for the precise biofabrication of human neural constructs. First, alginate microparticles, which serve as the granular component in the SHAPE composites, are fabricated and combined with a collagen-based continuous component. Then, human neural stem cells are printed inside the support material, followed by the annealing of the support. The printed constructs can be maintained for weeks to allow the differentiation of the printed cells into neurons. Simultaneously, the collagen continuous phase allows for axonal outgrowth and the interconnection of regions. Finally, this works provides information on how to perform live-cell fluorescence imaging and immunocytochemistry to characterize the 3D-printed human neural constructs.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere65158
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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