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Towards the Experimentally-Informed <i>In Silico</i> Nozzle Design Optimization for Extrusion-Based Bioprinting of Shear-Thinning Hydrogels

  • Reina-Romo, Esther;
  • Mandal, Sourav;
  • Amorim, Paulo; 112686;
  • Bloemen, Veerle; 72541;
  • Ferraris, Eleonora; 54243;
  • Geris, Liesbet; 35945;
Publication Date
Aug 06, 2021
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Research in bioprinting is booming due to its potential in addressing several manufacturing challenges in regenerative medicine. However, there are still many hurdles to overcome to guarantee cell survival and good printability. For the 3D extrusion-based bioprinting, cell viability is amongst one of the lowest of all the bioprinting techniques and is strongly influenced by various factors including the shear stress in the print nozzle. The goal of this study is to quantify, by means of in silico modeling, the mechanical environment experienced by the bioink during the printing process. Two ubiquitous nozzle shapes, conical and blunted, were considered, as well as three common hydrogels with material properties spanning from almost Newtonian to highly shear-thinning materials following the power-law behavior: Alginate-Gelatin, Alginate and PF127. Comprehensive in silico testing of all combinations of nozzle geometry variations and hydrogels was achieved by combining a design of experiments approach (DoE) with a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) of the printing process, analyzed through a machine learning approach named Gaussian Process. Available experimental results were used to validate the CFD model and justify the use of shear stress as a surrogate for cell survival in this study. The lower and middle nozzle radius, lower nozzle length and the material properties, alone and combined, were identified as the major influencing factors affecting shear stress, and therefore cell viability, during printing. These results were successfully compared with those of reported experiments testing viability for different nozzle geometry parameters under constant flow rate or constant pressure. The in silico 3D bioprinting platform developed in this study offers the potential to assist and accelerate further development of 3D bioprinting. / status: published

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