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An Open Source Technology Platform to Manufacture Hydrogel-Based 3D Culture Models in an Automated and Standardized Fashion

Sebastian Eggert1,2, Melanie Kahl1,3, Ross Kent1, Lukas Gaats1, Nathalie Bock1,3,4,5, Christoph Meinert1,2, Dietmar W. Hutmacher1,2,3,4,6

Abstract

Current mixing steps of viscous materials rely on repetitive and time-consuming tasks which are performed mainly manually in a low throughput mode. These issues represent drawbacks in workflows that can ultimately result in irreproducibility of research findings. Manual-based workflows are further limiting the advancement and widespread adoption of viscous materials, such as hydrogels used for biomedical applications. These challenges can be overcome by using automated workflows with standardized mixing processes to increase reproducibility. In this study, we present step-by-step instructions to use an open source protocol designer, to operate an open source workstation, and to identify reproducible mixtures. Specifically, the open source protocol designer guides the user through the experimental parameter selection and generates a ready-to-use protocol code to operate the workstation. This workstation is optimized for pipetting of viscous materials to enable automated and highly reliable handling by the integration of temperature docks for thermoresponsive materials, positive displacement pipettes for viscous materials, and an optional tip touch dock to remove excess material from the pipette tip. The validation and verification of mixtures are performed by a fast and inexpensive absorbance measurement of Orange G. This protocol presents results to obtain 80% (v/v) glycerol mixtures, a dilution series for gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA), and double network hydrogels of 5% (w/v) GelMA and 2% (w/v) alginate. A troubleshooting guide is included to support users with protocol adoption. The described workflow can be broadly applied to a number of viscous materials to generate user-defined concentrations in an automated fashion.

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