Bioprinting functional tissues from stem cells and enabling biomaterials

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Project aim and strategy

The main aim of this project is the fabrication of functional tissues, that can serve as next-generation implants and organ-on-chip devices, to mimic the healthy and damaged articular joint. The devices will be used for testing new therapeutic agents and may assist in reducing or replacing the use of experimental animals.

The main steps to achieve this goal will be:

Project partners


The synovial joint is a complex organ comprising several tissues, such as articular cartilage, subchondral bone, synovium, menisci, tendon, ligament and fat pad. These tissues work closely together to maintain joint homeostasis, which is crucial for the proper functioning of the joint. The ideal in vitro model to capture this complex environment consist of several joint tissues-on-chip connected with each other in a modular fashion.

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common invalidating disease characterized by gradual and unavoidable joint deterioration affecting 1.4 million Dutch. Current in vivo and in vitro models lack translation power for the development effective OA-treatments. We are currently developing an organ-on-chip model to mimic joint tissues typically affected by OA (e.g. cartilage, bone, synovial membrane). These on-chip units uniquely mimic the mechanical stimuli present in the joint, and with all units combined, will closely resemble a micro-joint.

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Biomacromolecules 2021, 22, 855−866

Silk fibroin, as a novel hydrogel-based bioink was combined with cell electrowriting to achieve well-organized cell-laden fiber structures with diameters ranging from 5 to 40 μm. More importantly, the biocompatibility of the bioink maintained a high cell viability post printing. Such unprecedented resolution and patterning precision open promising avenues for the high-resolution printing of labile biological moieties and living cells, leading to the creation of cellular microenvironments for regenerative medicine and organ-on-a-chip studies. 

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We conducted the first study in which cells were encapsulated within the rapid photo-crosslinking silk hydrogel matrix and were? present during the photo-chemical reaction. The silk hydrogel can support the viability of different mammalian cell types and could potentially act as a promising bioink formulation for bioprinting application.

Highlight 4 

A bioinspired synovium-on-a-chip system to study synovial inflammation during osteoarthritis. Cyclic fluidic shear stress is applied to patient-derived synovial fibroblasts residing on silk hydrogel within the microfluidic chip, mimicking the redistribution of the synovial fluid during the extension and flexion of the knee joint. The release patterns of inflammatory biomarkers followed a similar pattern as in previous in vivo experiments, which renders the potential of such in vitro model for rapid screening of arthritic drugs. 


Acquired funding by PIs since start of program: