Design and biofabrication of a leaf-inspired vascularized cell-delivery device

S. Sämfors, E. M. Niemi, K. Oskarsdotter, C. Villar Egea, A. Mark, H. Scholz, P. Gatenholm. Bioprinting, Online 1 March 2022.


We designed and biofabricated a channeled construct as a possible cell-delivery device that can be endothelialized to overcome size limitations due to oxygen diffusion. The channeled device mimicking a leaf was designed using computer-aided design software, with fluid flow through the channels visualized using simulation studies. The device was fabricated either by 3D-printing a mold and removable parts in plastic for use in form casting or by 3D-bioprinting using Pluronic F-127 as sacrificial ink to print the channels. The actual leaf was cast or bioprinted using hydrogel made from a mixture of tunicate cellulose nanofibers and alginate that was cross-linked in calcium chloride solution to allow a stable device. The resulting device was a 20 × 8 × 3 mm or 35 × 18 × 3 mm (length × width × height) leaf with one main channel connected to several side channels. Surface modification using periodate oxidation, followed by laminin bioconjugation, was performed to enhance endothelial cell adhesion in the channels. We subsequently used human umbilical vein endothelial cells to demonstrate the efficacy of the device for promoting endothelialization. These results indicated that the biofabricated device has great potential for use in tissue-engineering for various applications associated with the need of perfusable vasculature.

Photo credits: Nic McPhee