Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Nanocomposite Hydrogel for 3D Bioprinting

Technology #7700

Questions about this technology? Ask a Technology Manager

Download Printable PDF

Gary D. Luker
Managed By
Jeremy Nelson
Senior Licensing Specialist, Physical Sciences & Engineering 734-936-2095
Patent Protection

US Patent Pending


3D bioprinting is a tissue engineering technique that can produce biocompatible, complex three-dimensional structures from digital models, analogous to conventional 3D printing for plastic based materials. This is accomplished using materials collectively known as bioinks, which include broad classes of compounds like hydrogels or decellularized extracellular matrix proteins to create synthetic organ-like structures. A significant advantage of bioprinting over conventional tissue engineering is the ability to produce multicellular structures that are well organized and, using multiple printer heads, bioligands and signaling molecules can be specifically deposited to direct cellular assembly and architecture, mimicking the dynamics of organioid formation. 

Technical Challenge

The largest current bottleneck in the bioprinting industry is the development of printer compatible bioinks that are affordable, can be loaded with drugs or signaling molecules, and that maintain their designed shape during handling and for a defined time post grafting to the host organism. Many of the difficulties stem from the conditions required to cure the gel during the printing process, which may require strict temperature control that is difficult to maintain and results in non-uniform structures, or the use of cytotoxic chemicals in the case of chemical or UV crosslinking that may have negative effects on the incorporated cellular matter and adjacent tissues following transplantation. The available technology is a novel hydrogel material compatible with bioprinting applications that addresses these current shortfalls within the bioink industry.

A nanocomposite material with enhanced gelling kinetics and mechanical stability

The technology is a nanocomposite material in which nanoparticles have been embedded in a printer-compatible master hydrogel matrix. This nanocomposite material confers enhanced physical properties such as mechanical stability, deformability, swelling rate, and gelling kinetics relative to currently available solutions on the market. The nanoparticles themselves, as well as the materials comprising the master matrix, have been shown to be fully biocompatible and do not require harsh or toxic reagents for stability or gelation.The nanoparticles also provide an opportunity to incorporate drugs or signaling molecules and thus provide a potentially attractive approach for localized therapeutic delivery in transplanted host organisms.


  • The technology could potentially be applied as a scaffold for tissue regeneration by incorporating growth factors and other signaling molecules into the composite hydrogel.
  • The technology also has potential applications for use in post-surgical cancer treatments, as chemotherapeutic agents could be incorporated into the hydrogel, providing an attractive approach for highly localized treatment.
  • The technology could also be applied in the biomedical research enterprise by developing multifunctional¬†in vitro3D disease models, which will be useful for studying fundamental biological processes like cellular motility and invasion, tissue remodeling, and tissue regeneration.
  • The primary focus for the 3D bioprinting market has been on the generation of artificial organs to address transplantation needs. The technology provides the potential for greater granular control and uniformity in printing structures, which may help to achieve this goal.


  • The composite hydrogel demonstrates enhanced gelling kinetics and mechanical properties relative to currently available solutions, which will simplify the printing process and provide for printed structures with greater uniformity and stability.
  • The technology also provides the opportunity to incorporate drugs and signaling molecules into the matrix, providing a new method for the localized release of these compounds.