The meniscus is characterised by an anisotropic collagen fibre network which is integral to its biomechanical functionality. The engineering of structurally organized meniscal grafts that mimic the anisotropy of the native tissue remains a significant challenge. In this study, inkjet bioprinting was used to deposit a cell-laden bioink into additively manufactured scaffolds of differing architectures to engineer fibrocartilage grafts with user defined collagen architectures. Polymeric scaffolds consisting of guiding fibre networks with varying aspect ratios (1:1; 1:4; 1:16) were produced using either fused deposition modelling (FDM) or melt electrowriting (MEW), resulting in scaffolds with different internal architectures and fibre diameters. Scaffold architecture was found to influence the spatial organization of the collagen network laid down by the jetted cells, with higher aspect ratios (1:4 and 1:16) supporting the formation of structurally anisotropic tissues. The MEW scaffolds supported the development of a fibrocartilaginous tissue with compressive mechanical properties similar to that of native meniscus, while the anisotropic tensile properties of these constructs could be tuned by altering the fibre network aspect ratio. This MEW framework was then used to generate scaffolds with spatially distinct fibre patterns, which in turn supported the development of heterogenous tissues consisting of isotropic and anisotropic collagen networks. Such bioprinted tissues could potentially form the basis of new treatment options for damaged and diseased meniscal tissue. Statement of significance: This study describes a multiple tool biofabrication strategy which enables the engineering of spatially organized fibrocartilage tissues. The architecture of MEW scaffolds can be tailored to not only modulate the directionality of the collagen fibres laid down by cells, but also to tune the anisotropic tensile mechanical properties of the resulting constructs, thereby enabling the engineering of biomimetic meniscal-like tissues. Furthermore, the inherent flexibility of MEW enables the development of zonally defined and potentially patient-specific implants.
Barceló, X., Eichholz, K. F., Gonçalves, I. F., Garcia, O., & Kelly, D. J. (2023). Bioprinting of structurally organized meniscal tissue within anisotropic melt electrowritten scaffolds. Acta Biomaterialia, 158, 216–227. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actbio.2022.12.047