Development and quantitative characterization of the precursor rheology of hyaluronic acid hydrogels for bioprinting

Emi A. Kiyotake, Alexander W. Douglas, Emily E. Thomas, Susan L. Nimmo, Michael S. Detamore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Bioprinting technologies have tremendous potential for advancing regenerative medicine due to the precise spatial control over depositing a printable biomaterial, or bioink. Despite the growing interest in bioprinting, the field is challenged with developing biomaterials for extrusion-based bioprinting. The paradigm of contemporary bioink studies relies on trial-and-error methods for discovering printable biomaterials, which has little practical use for others who endeavor to develop bioinks. There is pressing need to follow the precedent set by a few pioneering studies that have attempted to standardize bioink characterizations for determining the properties that define printability. Here, we developed a pentenoate-functionalized hyaluronic acid hydrogel (PHA) into a printable bioink and used three recommended, quantitative rheological assessments to characterize the printability: 1) yield stress, 2) viscosity, and 3) storage modulus recovery. The most important characteristic is the yield stress; we found a yield stress upper limit of ∼1000 Pa for PHA. Measuring the viscosity was advantageous for determining shear-thinning behavior, which aided in extruding highly viscous PHA through a nozzle. Post-printing recovery is required to maintain shape fidelity and we found storage modulus recoveries above ∼85% were sufficient for PHA. Two formulations had superior printability (i.e., 1.5 MDa PHA − 4 wt%, and 1 MDa PHA − 8 wt%), and increasing cell concentrations in PHA up to 9 × 106 cells/mL had minimal effects on the printability. Even so, other factors such as sterilization and peptide modifications to enhance bioactivity may influence printability, highlighting the need for investigators to consider such factors when developing new bioinks. Statement of significance: Bioprinting has potential for regenerating damaged tissues; however, there are a limited number of printable biomaterials, and developing new bioinks is challenging because the required material physical properties for extrusion-based printing are not yet known. Most new bioinks are developed by trial-and-error, which is neither efficient nor comparable across materials. There is a need for the field to begin utilizing standard methods proposed by a few pioneering studies to characterize new bioinks. Therefore, we have developed the printability of a hyaluronic acid based-hydrogel and characterized the material with three quantitative rheological tests. The current work impacts the bioprinting field by demonstrating and encouraging the use of universal bioink characterizations and by providing printability windows to advance new bioink development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-187
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019


  • Bioinks
  • Bioprinting
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Hydrogels
  • Rheology


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