4D printing or not 4D printing? Mechanically actuatable 3D scaffolds for regenerative medicine

by Lorenzo Moroni, MERLN, Maastricht University

A key factor in scaffold-based tissue and organ regeneration relies on enhancing (stem) cell-material interactions to obtain the same original functionality. A possible way to build in functionality at the interface between materials and cells can be offered by 4D (bio)printing. Whether we are really witnessing 4D printing, a process which should be defined when the programmed temporal shape change happens during the 3D manufacturing itself, or not is still to be clarified in the field.

Nonetheless, these time-morphing 3D objects are certainly an exciting new development of conventional additive manufacturing, which are being translated in biofabrication strategies. Here, we present a new route towards time-dependent stimuli-responsive 3D scaffolds that can mechanically stimulate cells by harnessing the potential of different shape memory polymers.

About Lorenzo Moroni

Prof. Dr. Lorenzo Moroni studied Biomedical Engineering at Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy, and Nanoscale Sciences at Chalmers Technical University, Sweden. He received his Ph.D. cum laude in 2006 at University of Twente on 3D scaffolds for osteochondral regeneration, for which he was awarded the European doctorate award in Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering from the European Society of Biomaterials (ESB). In 2007, he worked at Johns Hopkins University as a post-doctoral fellow in the Elisseeff lab, focusing on hydrogels and stem cells. In 2008, he was appointed the R&D director of the Musculoskeletal Tissue Bank of Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute, where he investigated the use of stem cells from alternative sources for cell banking, and the development of novel bioactive scaffolds for skeletal regeneration.

From 2009 till 2014, he joined again University of Twente, where he got tenured in the Tissue Regeneration department.
Since 2014 he works at Maastricht University, where he is a founding member of the MERLN Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine. In 2016, he became full professor in biofabrication for regenerative medicine.
His research group interests aim at developing biofabrication technologies to generate libraries of 3D scaffolds able to control cell fate, with applications spanning from skeletal to vascular, neural, and organ regeneration.
In 2014, he received the prestigious Jean Leray award for outstanding young principal investigators from the ESB and the ERC starting grant. In 2016, he also received the prestigious Young Scientist Award for outstanding principal investigators from TERMIS. In 2017, he was elected as faculty of the Young Academy of Europe and in the top 100 Italian scientists within 40 worldwide by the European Institute of Italian Culture. Since 2019, he is chair of the Complex Tissue Regeneration department and vice-director of MERLN. From his research efforts, 3 products have already reached the market.

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