Agarose Fluid Gels Formed by Shear Processing During Gelation for Suspended 3D Bioprinting

Jessica Senior, Richard J.A. Moakes, Megan E. Cooke, Samuel Moxon, Alan Smith, Liam M. Grover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The use of granular matrices to support parts during the bioprinting process was first reported by Bhattacharjee et al. in 2015, and since then, several approaches have been developed for the preparation and use of supporting gel beds in 3D bioprinting. This paper describes a process to manufacture microgel suspensions using agarose (known as fluid gels), wherein particle formation is governed by the application of shear during gelation. Such processing produces carefully defined microstructures, with subsequent material properties that impart distinct advantages as embedding print media, both chemically and mechanically. These include behaving as viscoelastic solid-like materials at zero shear, limiting long-range diffusion, and demonstrating the characteristic shear-thinning behavior of flocculated systems. On the removal of shear stress, however, fluid gels have the capacity to rapidly recover their elastic properties. This lack of hysteresis is directly linked to the defined microstructures previously alluded to; because of the processing, reactive, non-gelled polymer chains at the particle interface facilitate interparticle interactions-similar to a Velcro effect. This rapid recovery of elastic properties enables bioprinting high-resolution parts from low-viscosity biomaterials, as rapid reformation of the support bed traps the bioink in situ, maintaining its shape. Furthermore, an advantage of agarose fluid gels is the asymmetric gelling/melting transitions (gelation temperature of ~30 °C and melting temperature of ~90 °C). This thermal hysteresis of agarose makes it possible to print and culture the bioprinted part in situ without the supporting fluid gel melting. This protocol shows how to manufacture agarose fluid gels and demonstrates their use to support the production of a range of complex hydrogel parts within suspended-layer additive manufacture (SLAM).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere64458
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of visualized experiments : JoVE
Issue number195
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2023


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