The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a three-dimensional (3D) network of macromolecules—such as collagen, enzymes, and glycoproteins—that is essential for spatial orientation, interaction, and signaling between surrounding cells. When ECM is engineered, the idea is to mimic natural tissue environments and gain insights into matrix-driven cellular regulation and, further, to develop replacements for damaged organs.
Imitation ECM comes to life through 3D bioprinting. An extension of traditional 3D printing, 3D bioprinting is an additive manufacturing technology that deposits biomaterials—cells, growth factors, and crosslinkable scaffold components—in arrangements favorable to the formation of tissue-like structures. 3D bioprinting is emerging as a powerful tool for regenerative medicine because it is capable of marrying optimal physical and biochemical properties for cell adhesion, migration proliferation, and differentiation.