Collagen is widely used in tissue engineering because it can be extracted in large quantities, and has excellent biocompatibility, good biodegradability, and weak antigenicity. In the present study, we isolated printable collagen from bovine Achilles tendon and examined the purity of the isolated collagen using sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The bands obtained corresponded to α1, α2 and β chains with little contamination from other small proteins. Furthermore, rheological measurements of collagen dispersions (60 mg per ml of PBS) at pH 7 revealed values of viscosity of 35.62 ± 1.42 Pa s at shear rate of 10 s − 1 and a shear thinning behavior. Collagen gels and solutions can be used for building scaffolds by three-dimensional (3D) printing. After designing and fabricating a low-cost 3D printer we assayed the collagen printing and obtaining 3D printed scaffolds of collagen at pH 7. The porosity of the scaffold was 90.22% ± 0.88% and the swelling ratio was 1437% ± 146%. The microstructure of the scaffolds was studied using scanning electron microscopy, and a porous mesh of fibrillar collagen was observed. In addition, the 3D printed collagen scaffold was not cytotoxic with cell viability higher than 70% using Vero and NIH 3 T3 cells. In vitro evaluation using both cells lines demonstrated that the collagen scaffolds had the ability to support cell attachment and proliferation. Also a fibrillar collagen mesh was observed after two weeks of culture at 37 °C. Overall, these results are promising since they show the capability of the presented protocol to obtain printable fibrillar collagen at pH 7 and the potential of the printing technique for building low-cost biocompatible 3D plotted structures which maintained the fibrillar collagen structure after incubation in culture media without using additional strategies as crosslinking.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
This research was supported by grants from SECyT-Universidad Nacional de Cordoba (Argentina) (PIP 308-201301-00273 CB). Aden Díaz Nocera is student of Facultad de Ciencias Médicas (UNC) and developed the bioprinter. Nancy A. Salvatierra, Mariana P. Cid and Romina Comín are members of CONICET. We thank Dr. Paul Hobson, native speaker, for revision of the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflicts OF interest
The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper.