This study investigates the use of allyl-functionalized poly(glycidol)s (P(AGE-co-G)) as a cytocompatible cross-linker for thiol-functionalized hyaluronic acid (HA-SH) and the optimization of this hybrid hydrogel as bioink for 3D bioprinting. The chemical cross-linking of gels with 10 wt.% overall polymer concentration was achieved by a UV-induced radical thiol-ene coupling between the thiol and allyl groups. The addition of unmodified high molecular weight HA (1.36 MDa) enabled the rheology to be tuned for extrusion-based bioprinting. The incorporation of additional HA resulted in hydrogels with a lower Young’s modulus and a higher swelling ratio, especially in the first 24 h, but a comparable equilibrium swelling for all gels after 24 h. Embedding of human and equine mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in the gels and subsequent in vitro culture showed promising chondrogenic differentiation after 21 d for cells from both origins. Moreover, cells could be printed with these gels, and embedded hMSCs showed good cell survival for at least 21 d in culture. To achieve mechanically stable and robust constructs for the envisioned application in articular cartilage, the formulations were adjusted for double printing with thermoplastic poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL).
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