One of the major challenges in producing large scale engineered tissue is the lack of ability to create large highly perfused scaffolds in which cells can grow at a high cell density and viability. Here, we explore 3D printed polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) as a sacrificial mould in a polymer casting process. The PVA mould network defines the channels and is dissolved after curing the polymer casted around it. The printing parameters determined the PVA filament density in the sacrificial structure and this density resulted in different stiffness of the corresponding elastomer replica. It was possible to achieve 80% porosity corresponding to about 150 cm2/cm3 surface to volume ratio. The process is easily scalable as demonstrated by fabricating a 75 cm3 scaffold with about 16,000 interconnected channels (about 1 m2 surface area) and with a channel to channel distance of only 78 μm. To our knowledge this is the largest scaffold ever to be produced with such small feature sizes and with so many structured channels. The fabricated scaffolds were applied for in-vitro culturing of hepatocytes over a 12-day culture period. Smaller scaffolds (6 × 4 mm) were tested for cell culturing and could support homogeneous cell growth throughout the scaffold. Presumably, the diffusion of oxygen and nutrient throughout the channel network is rapid enough to support cell growth. In conclusion, the described process is scalable, compatible with cell culture, rapid, and inexpensive.
- 3D printing
- Tissue engineering