3D printed silica-gelatin hybrid scaffolds of specific channel sizes promote collagen Type II, Sox9 and Aggrecan production from chondrocytes.
Nelson M., Li S., Page SJ., Shi X., Lee PD., Stevens MM., Hanna JV., Jones JR.
Inorganic/organic hybrids have co-networks of inorganic and organic components, with the aim of obtaining synergy of the properties of those components. Here, a silica-gelatin sol-gel hybrid "ink" was directly 3D printed to produce 3D grid-like scaffolds, using a coupling agent, 3-glycidyloxypropyl)trimethoxysilane (GPTMS), to form covalent bonds between the silicate and gelatin co-networks. Scaffolds were printed with 1 mm strut separation, but the drying method affected the final architecture and properties. Freeze drying produced <40 μm struts and large ~700 μm channels. Critical point drying enabled strut consolidation, with ~160 μm struts and ~200 μm channels, which improved mechanical properties. This architecture was critical to cellular response: when chondrocytes were seeded on the scaffolds with 200 μm wide pore channels in vitro, collagen Type II matrix was preferentially produced (negligible amount of Type I or X were observed), indicative of hyaline-like cartilaginous matrix formation, but when pore channels were 700 μm wide, Type I collagen was prevalent. This was supported by Sox9 and Aggrecan expression. The scaffolds have potential for regeneration of articular cartilage regeneration, particularly in sports medicine cases.