In tissue engineering, additive manufacturing (AM) technologies have brought considerable progress as they allow the fabrication of three-dimensional (3D) structures with defined architecture. 3D plotting is a versatile, extrusion-based AM technology suitable for processing a wide range of biomaterials including hydrogels. In this study, composites of highly concentrated alginate and gellan gum were prepared in order to combine the excellent printing properties of alginate with the favorable gelling characteristics of gellan gum. Mixtures of 16.7 wt % alginate and 2 or 3 wt % gellan gum were found applicable for 3D plotting. Characterization of the resulting composite scaffolds revealed an increased stiffness in the wet state (15%–20% higher Young’s modulus) and significantly lower volume swelling in cell culture medium compared to pure alginate scaffolds (~10% vs.
~23%). Cytocompatibility experiments with human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) revealed that cell attachment was improved—the seeding efficiency was ~2.5–3.5 times higher on the composites than on pure alginate. Additionally, the composites were shown to support hMSC proliferation and early osteogenic differentiation. In conclusion, print fidelity of highly concentrated alginate-gellan gum composites was comparable to those of pure alginate; after plotting and crosslinking, the scaffolds possessed improved qualities regarding shape fidelity, mechanical strength, and initial cell attachment making them attractive for tissue engineering applications.
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