Biofabrication 2019 May 7;11(3):035017. Epub 2019 May 7.
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Pohang University of Science and Technology, 77 Cheongam-ro, Pohang, Gyeongbuk, 37673, Republic of Korea.
The microenvironments of tissues or organs are complex architectures comprised of structural proteins including collagen. Particularly, the cornea is organized in a lattice pattern of collagen fibrils which play a significant role in its transparency. This paper introduces a transparent bioengineered corneal structure for transplantation. The structure is fabricated by inducing shear stress to a corneal stroma-derived decellularized extracellular matrix bioink based on a 3D cell printing technique. The printed structure recapitulates the native macrostructure of the cornea with aligned collagen fibrils which results in the construction of a highly matured and transparent cornea stroma analog. The level of shear stress, controlled by the various size of the printing nozzle, manipulates the arrangement of the fibrillar structure. With proper parameter selection, the printed cornea exhibits high cellular alignment capability, indicating a tissue-specific structural organization of collagen fibrils. In addition, this structural regulation enhances critical cellular events in the assembly of collagen over time. Interestingly, the collagen fibrils that remodeled along with the printing path create a lattice pattern similar to the structure of native human cornea after 4 weeks in vivo. Taken together, these results establish the possibilities and versatility of fabricating aligned collagen fibrils; this represents significant advances in corneal tissue engineering.