Inkjet technology has long been used to print our papers, pictures or letters. More recently, attention has expanded to patterning new materials, especially in life science applications. Tissue engineering, by combining living cells in three-dimensional scaffolds, aims to develop complex biological substitutes to restore, heal, or improve tissue function. Inkjet patterning promises to have major impact in this area, enabling the production of three-dimensional hydrogel structures for maintaining cell viability, function, and organization.
In this work, cells suspended in an aqueous buffer are printed onto tissue culture substrates. One key challenge in achieving a printed cell pattern is to prevent microdrop evaporation during the time required for cell attachment to the substrate. This project presents a new method to extend droplet lifetime up to several minutes. Cell viability after being printed into collagen scaffolds was characterized. In addition, a collagen solution has been printed by cooling the inkjet nozzle below the collagen gel temperature. The next step will be to print a solution of cells suspended in collagen in order to create patterned, three dimensional hydrogel structures.