3D bioprinted hydrogel scaffolds laden with Schwann cells for use as nerve repair conduits
The goal of nerve tissue engineering is to promote and guide axon growth across a site of nerve injury without misdirection. Bioengineered tissue scaffolds have been shown to be promising for the regeneration of damaged peripheral nerves. Schwann cells play a pivotal role following nerve injury by forming aligned “bands of Büngner” that promote and guide axon regeneration into the distal nerve segment. The incorporation of living Schwann cells into various hydrogels has therefore been urged during the fabrication of tissue engineered nerve scaffolds. The aim of this research is to characterize biomaterials suitable for 3D bioplotting of nerve repair scaffolds. Here a novel technique of scaffold fabrication has been optimized to print alginate-based three-dimensional tissue scaffolds containing hyaluronic acid and living Schwann cells. Alginate/hyaluronic acid scaffolds were successfully fabricated with good printability and cell viability. Addition of the polycation polyethyleneimine (PEI) during the fabrication process stabilized the structure of alginate through the formation of a polyelectrolyte complex and had a significant influence on the degree of swelling, degradation rate, mechanical property, and release kinetics of incorporated protein within the scaffolds. A preliminary in vivo study showed the feasibility of implanting 3D printed alginate/hyaluronic acid scaffolds as nerve conduits in Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats with resected sciatic nerves. However alginate/hyaluronic acid scaffolds were found to be unsuitable for axonal regeneration. Further in vitro culture of Schwann cells was performed in collagen type-I, fibrin, fibrin/hyaluronic acid, and their combination with alginate. It was found that Schwann cells had more favorable cell morphology in fibrin/hyaluronic acid or collagen without alginate. Schwann cell proliferation and alignment were better in fibrin/hyaluronic acid. Therefore fibrin/hyaluronic acid is more ideal than most other hydrogel formulations for use in the bioprinting of nerve repair tissue engineering scaffolds, which incorporate cellular elements. As Schwann cells also align along the long axis of the printed fibrin/hyaluronic acid strands, 3D bioprinting of multiple layers of crosslinked fibrin strands can be used to fabricate a nerve conduit mimicking the bands of Büngner.
Tissue engineered scaffolds, Nerve tissue engineering, Axonal regeneration, 3D Bioprinting, Schwann cells
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)