Fabrication and characterization of mechanically competent 3D printed scaffolds

In a study published in Nature, led by Iranian researchers, 3D printed composite scaffolds for tissue engineering, comprising polycaprolactone (PCL) and various amounts of reduced graphene oxide (rGO) that are mechanically enhanced and biologically compatible were fabricated.

Biologic scaffolds are three-dimensional (3D) constructs that serve as temporary templates and provide cells with an appropriate environment for tissue regeneration and formation. They should be able to withstand physical loads, be mechanically compatible with the surrounding environment, and serve as structural support systems for tissue regeneration to take place.

A myriad of techniques is available to fabricate scaffolds. However, most techniques are limited by their poor control over scaffold design, architecture, pore network and pore size. The ability to produce constructs with a high control over the bulk geometry and internal architecture has situated 3D printing as an attractive fabrication technique for scaffolds. Various designs and inks are being actively investigated to prepare scaffolds for different tissues.

Biodegradable synthetic polymers such as polylactic acid (PLA) and polycaprolactone (PCL) are among the most widely used polymers for scaffold fabrication. Composite structures of reduced graphene oxide (Rgo) with various polymers typically demonstrate improvements in their physicochemical and biological features.

The resultant scaffolds prepared by a team of researchers at Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Connecticut, were seamlessly integrated, and 3D printed with high fidelity, repeatability, and consistency across all groups. This, together with the homogeneous dispersion of the rGO sheets within the polymer matrix, significantly improved the compressive strength and stiffness of the scaffold.

The in vitro response of the aforementioned scaffolds was assessed. All scaffolds were cytocompatible and supported cell growth and viability.

These mechanically reinforced and biologically compatible 3D printed PCL-rGO scaffolds are a promising platform for regenerative engineering applications.

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