Scaffold-free bioprinting of mesenchymal stem cells using the Regenova printer: Spheroid characterization and osteogenic differentiation

Izath Nizeet Aguilar, David J. Olivos, Alexander Brinker, Marta B. Alvarez, Lester J. Smith, Tien Min Gabriel Chu, Melissa A. Kacena, Diane R. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Limitations in scaffold material properties, such as sub-optimal degradation time, highlight the need for alternative approaches to engineer de novo tissues. One emerging solution for fabricating tissue constructs is scaffold-free tissue engineering. To facilitate this approach, three-dimensional (3D)bioprinting technology (Regenova Bio 3D Printer)has been developed to construct complex geometric shapes from discrete cellular spheroids without exogenous scaffolds. Optimizing spheroid fabrication and characterizing cellular behavior in the spheroid environment are important first steps prior to printing larger constructs. Here, we characterized spheroids of immortalized mouse bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs)that were differentiated to the osteogenic lineage. Immortalized BMSCs were seeded in low attachment 96-well plates in various numbers to generate self-aggregated spheroids either under the force of gravity or centrifugation. Cells were cultured in control or osteogenic media for up to 28 days. Spheroid diameter, roundness and smoothness were measured. Cell viability, DNA content and alkaline phosphatase activity were assessed at multiple time points. Additionally, expression of osteogenic markers was determined using real time qPCR. Spheroids formed under gravity with 20 K, 30 K and 40 K cells had average diameters of 498.5 ± 8.3 μm, 580.0 ± 32.9 μm and 639.2 ± 54.0 μm, respectively, while those formed under 300G centrifugation with the same numbers of cells had average diameters of 362.3 ± 3.5 μm, 433.1 ± 6.4 μm and 491.2 ± 8.0 μm. Spheroids formed via centrifugation were superior to those formed by gravity, as evidenced by better roundness and smoothness and double the retention of DNA (cellular)content. Cells in spheroids exhibited a robust osteogenic response to the differentiation medium, including higher mRNA expression of alkaline phosphatase, collagen type I, and osteocalcin than those cultured in control medium, as well as greater alkaline phosphatase activity. The optimal spheroid fabrication technique from this study was to aggregate 40 K cells under 150–300G centrifugation. In future investigations, these spheroids will be 3D printed into larger tissue constructs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00050
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Bioprinting
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Osteogenesis
  • Regenova
  • Scaffold-free
  • Spheroid formation
  • Tissue engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications

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