Design and characterisation of multi-functional strontium-gelatin nanocomposite bioinks with improved print fidelity and osteogenic capacity

Cesar R. Alcala-Orozco, Isha Mutreja, Xiaolin Cui, Dhiraj Kumar, Gary J. Hooper, Khoon S. Lim, Tim B.F. Woodfield*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


3D bioprinting of constructs for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine has steadily gained attention due to its potential to fabricate anatomically-precise living constructs, localise specific cell types and enable the regeneration of functional tissues in a clinical setting. However, the limited availability of bioinks that can be successfully 3D bioprinted with high fidelity and simultaneously provide encapsulated cells with a tailored, low-stiffness microenvironment supporting functional tissue formation remains an unmet challenge. To address both the physical and biological limitations of available bioinks, this study aimed to develop a nanocomposite bioink (Sr-GelMA) comprising of strontium-carbonate (Sr) nanoparticles and low concentration (5 w/v%) gelatin-methacryloyl (GelMA) hydrogel for extrusion-based 3D bioprinting of low-stiffness cell-laden scaffolds with high shape fidelity and bone-specific cell signalling factors. We systematically investigated the effect of Sr incorporation on hydrogel physico-chemical properties, print fidelity, scaffold shape retention, as well as cell viability, osteogenic differentiation and in vitro bone formation. Nanocomposite Sr-GelMA hydrogels retained their physical and mechanical properties, while rheological studies revealed a significant increase in viscosity profiles that led to notably enhanced printability compared to GelMA alone. Moreover, bioprinted Sr-GelMA scaffolds exhibited excellent shape fidelity evidenced by a defined pore geometry on the x-y-z axis, resulting in an interconnected bioink filament and pore network that was maintained even after long-term culture and osteogenic differentiation (28 days) of human mesenchymal stromal cells (hMSCs). The presence of clustered Sr nanoparticles in the cell-laden bioink allowed high quality bioprinting combined with high hMSC viability (>95%) post-fabrication. Furthermore, Sr addition resulted in enhanced osteogenic differentiation of hMSCs as revealed by higher alkaline phosphatase (ALP) levels, osteocalcin (OCN) and collagen type-I (Col I) expression, with mineralised nodule formation distributed homogenously throughout the bioprinted construct. This study demonstrated that strontium-based nanocomposite bioinks optimised for extrusion-based 3D bioprinting of osteoconductive scaffolds support long-term shape retention with promising potential for bone tissue regeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00073
StatePublished - Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Biofabrication
  • Bioink
  • Bioprinting
  • Bone tissue engineering
  • Hydrogels
  • Nanocomposite
  • Strontium


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