Gelatin methacryloyl and Laponite bioink for 3D bioprinted organotypic tumor modeling

de Barros N. R., Gomez A., Ermis M., Falcone N., Haghniaz R., Young P., ...More

Biofabrication, vol.15, no.4, 2023 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 15 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1088/1758-5090/ace0db
  • Journal Name: Biofabrication
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, BIOSIS, Compendex, EMBASE, INSPEC, MEDLINE
  • Keywords: 3D bioprinting, gelatin methacryloyl, nanoengineered composite hydrogel, organotypic, pancreatic cancer, silicate nanoplatelet
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Three-dimensional (3D)in vitrotumor models that can capture the pathophysiology of human tumors are essential for cancer biology and drug development. However, simulating the tumor microenvironment is still challenging because it consists of a heterogeneous mixture of various cellular components and biological factors. In this regard, current extracellular matrix (ECM)-mimicking hydrogels used in tumor tissue engineering lack physical interactions that can keep biological factors released by encapsulated cells within the hydrogel and improve paracrine interactions. Here, we developed a nanoengineered ion-covalent cross-linkable bioink to construct 3D bioprinted organotypic tumor models. The bioink was designed to implement the tumor ECM by creating an interpenetrating network composed of gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA), a light cross-linkable polymer, and synthetic nanosilicate (Laponite) that exhibits a unique ionic charge to improve retention of biological factors released by the encapsulated cells and assist in paracrine signals. The physical properties related to printability were evaluated to analyze the effect of Laponite hydrogel on bioink. Low GelMA (5%) with high Laponite (2.5%-3.5%) composite hydrogels and high GelMA (10%) with low Laponite (1.0%-2.0%) composite hydrogels showed acceptable mechanical properties for 3D printing. However, a low GelMA composite hydrogel with a high Laponite content could not provide acceptable cell viability. Fluorescent cell labeling studies showed that as the proportion of Laponite increased, the cells became more aggregated to form larger 3D tumor structures. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) and western blot experiments showed that an increase in the Laponite ratio induces upregulation of growth factor and tissue remodeling-related genes and proteins in tumor cells. In contrast, cell cycle and proliferation-related genes were downregulated. On the other hand, concerning fibroblasts, the increase in the Laponite ratio indicated an overall upregulation of the mesenchymal phenotype-related genes and proteins. Our study may provide a rationale for using Laponite-based hydrogels in 3D cancer modeling.