Cartilage defects can result in pain, disability, and osteoarthritis. Hydrogels providing a chondroregeneration-permissive environment are often mechanically weak and display poor lateral integration into the surrounding cartilage. This study develops a visible-light responsive gelatin ink with enhanced interactions with the native tissue, and potential for intraoperative bioprinting. A dual-functionalized tyramine and methacryloyl gelatin (GelMA-Tyr) is synthesized. Photo-crosslinking of both groups is triggered in a single photoexposure by cell-compatible visible light in presence of tris(2,2′-bipyridyl)dichlororuthenium(II) and sodium persulfate as initiators. Neo-cartilage formation from embedded chondroprogenitor cells is demonstrated in vitro, and the hydrogel is successfully applied as bioink for extrusion-printing. Visible light in situ crosslinking in cartilage defects results in no damage to the surrounding tissue, in contrast to the native chondrocyte death caused by UV light (365-400 nm range), commonly used in biofabrication. Tyramine-binding to proteins in native cartilage leads to a 15-fold increment in the adhesive strength of the bioglue compared to pristine GelMA. Enhanced adhesion is observed also when the ink is extruded as printable filaments into the defect. Visible-light reactive GelMA-Tyr bioinks can act as orthobiologic carriers for in situ cartilage repair, providing a permissive environment for chondrogenesis, and establishing safe lateral integration into chondral defects.
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