Biologically Inspired Nanomaterials and Advanced 3D/4D Bioprinting and for Complex Tissue and Organ Regeneration

Since the dimension of natural tissue extracellular matrixes is typically in the scale of nanometers, nanomaterials with the required biomimetic features and excellent physiochemical properties become promising for stimulating various tissue regeneration. In addition, as an emerging tissue manufacturing technique, 3D bioprinting offers great precision and control of the internal architecture and outer shape of a scaffold, allowing for close recapitulation of complicated structures found in biological tissue. 4D bioprinting is also a highly innovative additive manufacturing process to fabricate pre-designed, self-assembly structures with the ability to transform from one state to another directly off the bioprinter. The term “4D” refers to the time-dependent dynamic process triggered by specific stimulation according to predesigned requirements. However, current 3D/4D bioprinting based additive manufacturing technologies are hindered by the lack of advanced smart “inks” and achieving a nano resolution. Therefore, the main objective of our research is to develop novel biologically inspired nano or smart inks and advanced 3D/4D bioprinting techniques to fabricate the next generation of complex tissue constructs (such as vascularized tissue, neural tissue and osteochondral tissue). For this purpose, we designed and synthesized innovative biologically inspired nanomaterials (i.e., self-assembly materials, and conductive carbon nanomaterials) and smart natural materials. Through 3D/4D bioprinting in our lab, a series of biomimetic tissue scaffolds were successfully fabricated. Our results show that these bioprinted nano or smart scaffolds have not only improved mechanical properties but also excellent cytocompatibility properties for enhancing various cell growth and differentiation, thus promising for complex tissue/organ regeneration.


Professor Lijie Grace Zhang’s Bioengineering Laboratory for Nanomedicine and Tissue Engineering applies a range of interdisciplinary technologies and approaches in nanotechnology, stem cells, tissue engineering, biomaterials, and drug delivery for various biomedical applications. The main ongoing research projects include: designing biologically inspired nanostructured scaffolds and developing 3D bioprinting techniques for bone, cartilage, osteochondral and neural tissue regenerations; investigation of the influence of nano and chemical environments in directing stem cell differentiations for regenerative medicine; developing sustained drug formulations for long term and controlled drug release at disease or cancer sites; and developing a novel 3D tunable bone model for breast cancer metastasis study.