Bioprinting Therapeutics for Regenerative Medicine


It is well acknowledged that 3D bioprinting holds huge promise for the development of healthy, functional tissue from cell-containing constructs generated in the lab. However, a significant challenge for researchers in the 3D bioprinting field is lack of control over cellular functions within such printed structures. Growth factors are a special class of proteins that can direct cellular fate and functions, but it has proven challenging to easily incorporated such therapeutic molecules within a 3D-printed cell-laden structure for a prolonged duration.

A team of researchers at Texas A&M University led by Prof. Akhilesh Gaharwar has developed an innovative way to print therapeutics in 3D for regenerative medicine utilising a bioink consisting of 2D mineral nanoparticles to sequester and 3D print therapeutics at precise locations. Their findings were recently published in Advanced Healthcare Materials.

The team has designed a new class of PEG-based hydrogel bioink loaded with therapeutic proteins and incorporating a nanoclay platform developed by Gaharwar, which can be used for precise deposition of protein therapeutics.

“This formulation using nanoclay sequesters the therapeutic of interest for increased cell activity and proliferation,” said Dr. Charles W. Peak, senior author on the study. “In addition, the prolonged delivery of the bioactive therapeutic could improve cell migration within 3D printed scaffolds and can help in rapid vascularization of scaffolds.” Indeed, in their study the team demonstrated sustained release of pro-angiogenic therapeutics from 3D printed structures, which promoted rapid migration of human endothelial umbilical vein cells.

Chemically-defined hydrogels such as those described in this article, and materials such as Biogelx’s peptide-based hydrogels and bioinks offer huge potential for therapeutic delivery applications, as they can offer controllable, reproducible realise. As well as being biocompatible, their shear-thinning properties mean that they are they suitable for injectable delivery as well as amenable to 3D printing techniques at the forefront of regenerative medicine.

Additionally, Gaharwar highlights that the prolonged delivery of therapeutics could also reduce overall costs by decreasing the therapeutic concentration as well as minimizing the negative side effects associated with supraphysiological doses.


C. W. Peak, K. A. Singh, M. Adlouni, J. Chen, A. K. Gaharwar. “Printing Therapeutic Proteins in 3D using Nanoengineered Bioink to Control and Direct Cell Migration.” Advanced Healthcare Materials, 2019; 1801553 DOI: 10.1002/adhm.201801553


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