Hydrogels are hydrophilic crosslinked polymers that provide a three-dimensional microenvironment with tissue-like elasticity and high permeability for culturing therapeutically relevant cells or tissues. Hydrogels prepared from poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) derivatives are increasingly used for a variety of tissue engineering applications, in part due to their tunable and cytocompatible properties. In this protocol, we utilized thiol-ene step-growth photopolymerizations to fabricate PEG-peptide hydrogels for encapsulating pancreatic MIN6 b-cells. The gels were formed by 4-arm PEG-norbornene (PEG4NB) macromer and a chymotrypsin-sensitive peptide crosslinker (CGGYC). The hydrophilic and non-fouling nature of PEG offers a cytocompatible microenvironment for cell survival and proliferation in 3D, while the use of chymotrypsin-sensitive peptide sequence (CGGY↓C, arrow indicates enzyme cleavage site, while terminal cysteine residues were added for thiol-ene crosslinking) permits rapid recovery of cell constructs forming within the hydrogel. The following protocol elaborates techniques for: (1) Encapsulation of MIN6 β-cells in thiol-ene hydrogels; (2) Qualitative and quantitative cell viability assays to determine cell survival and proliferation; (3) Recovery of cell spheroids using chymotrypsin-mediated gel erosion; and (4) Structural and functional analysis of the recovered spheroids.
17 Related JoVE Articles!
Characteristics of Precipitation-formed Polyethylene Glycol Microgels Are Controlled by Molecular Weight of Reactants
Institutions: The University of Akron, Saint Vincent Saint Mary's High School.
This work describes the formation of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) microgels via a photopolymerized precipitation reaction. Precipitation reactions offer several advantages over traditional microsphere fabrication techniques. Contrary to emulsion, suspension, and dispersion techniques, microgels formed by precipitation are of uniform shape and size, i.e.
low polydispersity index, without the use of organic solvents or stabilizers. The mild conditions of the precipitation reaction, customizable properties of the microgels, and low viscosity for injections make them applicable for in vivo
purposes. Unlike other fabrication techniques, microgel characteristics can be modified by changing the starting polymer molecular weight. Increasing the starting PEG molecular weight increased microgel diameter and swelling ratio. Further modifications are suggested such as encapsulating molecules during microgel crosslinking. Simple adaptations to the PEG microgel building blocks are explored for future applications of microgels as drug delivery vehicles and tissue engineering scaffolds.
Bioengineering, Issue 82, hydrogels, microgels, polyethylene glycol, molecuar weight, photopolymerized precipitation reaction, polymers, polydispersity index
Preparation of Hydroxy-PAAm Hydrogels for Decoupling the Effects of Mechanotransduction Cues
Institutions: Université de Mons.
It is now well established that many cellular functions are regulated by interactions of cells with physicochemical and mechanical cues of their extracellular matrix (ECM) environment. Eukaryotic cells constantly sense their local microenvironment through surface mechanosensors to transduce physical changes of ECM into biochemical signals, and integrate these signals to achieve specific changes in gene expression. Interestingly, physicochemical and mechanical parameters of the ECM can couple with each other to regulate cell fate. Therefore, a key to understanding mechanotransduction is to decouple the relative contribution of ECM cues on cellular functions.
Here we present a detailed experimental protocol to rapidly and easily generate biologically relevant hydrogels for the independent tuning of mechanotransduction cues in vitro
. We chemically modified polyacrylamide hydrogels (PAAm) to surmount their intrinsically non-adhesive properties by incorporating hydroxyl-functionalized acrylamide monomers during the polymerization. We obtained a novel PAAm hydrogel, called hydroxy-PAAm, which permits immobilization of any desired nature of ECM proteins. The combination of hydroxy-PAAm hydrogels with microcontact printing allows to independently control the morphology of single-cells, the matrix stiffness, the nature and the density of ECM proteins. We provide a simple and rapid method that can be set up in every biology lab to study in vitro
cell mechanotransduction processes. We validate this novel two-dimensional platform by conducting experiments on endothelial cells that demonstrate a mechanical coupling between ECM stiffness and the nucleus.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, hydrogels, mechanotransduction, polyacrylamide, microcontact printing, cell shape, stiffness, durotaxis, cell-ligand density
Engineering a Bilayered Hydrogel to Control ASC Differentiation
Institutions: United States Army Institute of Surgical Research, The University of Texas at Austin.
Natural polymers over the years have gained more importance because of their host biocompatibility and ability to interact with cells in vitro
and in vivo.
An area of research that holds promise in regenerative medicine is the combinatorial use of novel biomaterials and stem cells. A fundamental strategy in the field of tissue engineering is the use of three-dimensional scaffold (e.g., decellularized extracellular matrix, hydrogels, micro/nano particles) for directing cell function. This technology has evolved from the discovery that cells need a substrate upon which they can adhere, proliferate, and express their differentiated cellular phenotype and function 2-3
. More recently, it has also been determined that cells not only use these substrates for adherence, but also interact and take cues from the matrix substrate (e.g., extracellular matrix, ECM)4
. Therefore, the cells and scaffolds have a reciprocal connection that serves to control tissue development, organization, and ultimate function. Adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) are mesenchymal, non-hematopoetic stem cells present in adipose tissue that can exhibit multi-lineage differentiation and serve as a readily available source of cells (i.e. pre-vascular endothelia and pericytes). Our hypothesis is that adipose-derived stem cells can be directed toward differing phenotypes simultaneously by simply co-culturing them in bilayered matrices1
. Our laboratory is focused on dermal wound healing. To this end, we created a single composite matrix from the natural biomaterials, fibrin, collagen, and chitosan that can mimic the characteristics and functions of a dermal-specific wound healing ECM environment.
Bioengineering, Issue 63, Biomedical Engineering, Tissue Engineering, chitosan, microspheres, collagen, hydrogel, PEG fibrin, cell delivery, adipose-derived stem cells, ASC, CSM
A Method for Ovarian Follicle Encapsulation and Culture in a Proteolytically Degradable 3 Dimensional System
Institutions: Northwestern University, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Northwestern University, Northwestern University.
The ovarian follicle is the functional unit of the ovary that secretes sex hormones and supports oocyte maturation. In vitro
follicle techniques provide a tool to model follicle development in order to investigate basic biology, and are further being developed as a technique to preserve fertility in the clinic1-4
. Our in vitro
culture system employs hydrogels in order to mimic the native ovarian environment by maintaining the 3D follicular architecture, cell-cell interactions and paracrine signaling that direct follicle development 5
. Previously, follicles were successfully cultured in alginate, an inert algae-derived polysaccharide that undergoes gelation with calcium ions6-8
. Alginate hydrogels formed at a concentration of 0.25% w/v were the most permissive for follicle culture, and retained the highest developmental competence 9
. Alginate hydrogels are not degradable, thus an increase in the follicle diameter results in a compressive force on the follicle that can impact follicle growth10
. We subsequently developed a culture system based on a fibrin-alginate interpenetrating network (FA-IPN), in which a mixture of fibrin and alginate are gelled simultaneously. This combination provides a dynamic mechanical environment because both components contribute to matrix rigidity initially; however, proteases secreted by the growing follicle degrade fibrin in the matrix leaving only alginate to provide support. With the IPN, the alginate content can be reduced below 0.25%, which is not possible with alginate alone 5
. Thus, as the follicle expands, it will experience a reduced compressive force due to the reduced solids content. Herein, we describe an encapsulation method and an in vitro
culture system for ovarian follicles within a FA-IPN. The dynamic mechanical environment mimics the natural ovarian environment in which small follicles reside in a rigid cortex and move to a more permissive medulla as they increase in size11
. The degradable component may be particularly critical for clinical translation in order to support the greater than 106
-fold increase in volume that human follicles normally undergo in vivo
Bioengineering, Issue 49, Ovarian follicle, fibrin-alginate, 3D culture system, dynamic environment
Mechanical Stimulation of Chondrocyte-agarose Hydrogels
Institutions: Queen's University , Queen's University .
Articular cartilage suffers from a limited repair capacity when damaged by mechanical insult or degraded by disease, such as osteoarthritis. To remedy this deficiency, several medical interventions have been developed. One such method is to resurface the damaged area with tissue-engineered cartilage; however, the engineered tissue typically lacks the biochemical properties and durability of native cartilage, questioning its long-term survivability. This limits the application of cartilage tissue engineering to the repair of small focal defects, relying on the surrounding tissue to protect the implanted material. To improve the properties of the developed tissue, mechanical stimulation is a popular method utilized to enhance the synthesis of cartilaginous extracellular matrix as well as the resultant mechanical properties of the engineered tissue. Mechanical stimulation applies forces to the tissue constructs analogous to those experienced in vivo
. This is based on the premise that the mechanical environment, in part, regulates the development and maintenance of native tissue1,2
. The most commonly applied form of mechanical stimulation in cartilage tissue engineering is dynamic compression at physiologic strains of approximately 5-20% at a frequency of 1 Hz1,3
. Several studies have investigated the effects of dynamic compression and have shown it to have a positive effect on chondrocyte metabolism and biosynthesis, ultimately affecting the functional properties of the developed tissue4-8
. In this paper, we illustrate the method to mechanically stimulate chondrocyte-agarose hydrogel constructs under dynamic compression and analyze changes in biosynthesis through biochemical and radioisotope assays. This method can also be readily modified to assess any potentially induced changes in cellular response as a result of mechanical stimuli.
Cellular Biology, Issue 68, Tissue Engineering, Mechanical Stimulation, Chondrocytes, Agarose, Cartilage
Cellular Encapsulation in 3D Hydrogels for Tissue Engineering
Institutions: University of Pennsylvania , University of Pennsylvania-School of Medicine.
The 3D encapsulation of cells within hydrogels represents an increasingly important and popular technique for culturing cells and towards the development of constructs for tissue engineering. This environment better mimics what cells observe in vivo,
compared to standard tissue culture, due to the tissue-like properties and 3D environment. Synthetic polymeric hydrogels are water-swollen networks that can be designed to be stable or to degrade through hydrolysis or proteolysis as new tissue is deposited by encapsulated cells. A wide variety of polymers have been explored for these applications, such as poly(ethylene glycol) and hyaluronic acid. Most commonly, the polymer is functionalized with reactive groups such as methacrylates or acrylates capable of undergoing crosslinking through various mechanisms. In the past decade, much progress has been made in engineering these microenvironments - e.g., via the physical or pendant covalent incorporation of biochemical cues - to improve viability and direct cellular phenotype, including the differentiation of encapsulated stem cells (Burdick et al.
The following methods for the 3D encapsulation of cells have been optimized in our and other laboratories to maximize cytocompatibility and minimize the number of hydrogel processing steps. In the following protocols (see Figure 1 for an illustration of the procedure), it is assumed that functionalized polymers capable of undergoing crosslinking are already in hand; excellent reviews of polymer chemistry as applied to the field of tissue engineering may be found elsewhere (Burdick et al.
) and these methods are compatible with a range of polymer types. Further, the Michael-type addition (see Lutolf et al.
) and light-initiated free radical (see Elisseeff et al.
) mechanisms focused on here constitute only a small portion of the reported crosslinking techniques. Mixed mode crosslinking, in which a portion of reactive groups is first consumed by addition crosslinking and followed by a radical mechanism, is another commonly used and powerful paradigm for directing the phenotype of encapsulated cells (Khetan et al.
, Salinas et al.
Cellular Biology, Issue 32, Hydrogel, Tissue Engineering, Biomaterials, Encapsulation, Scaffolds, Bioengineering, Cell Culture, Polymers
Longitudinal Measurement of Extracellular Matrix Rigidity in 3D Tumor Models Using Particle-tracking Microrheology
Institutions: University of Massachusetts Boston.
The mechanical microenvironment has been shown to act as a crucial regulator of tumor growth behavior and signaling, which is itself remodeled and modified as part of a set of complex, two-way mechanosensitive interactions. While the development of biologically-relevant 3D tumor models have facilitated mechanistic studies on the impact of matrix rheology on tumor growth, the inverse problem of mapping changes in the mechanical environment induced by tumors remains challenging. Here, we describe the implementation of particle-tracking microrheology (PTM) in conjunction with 3D models of pancreatic cancer as part of a robust and viable approach for longitudinally monitoring physical changes in the tumor microenvironment, in situ
. The methodology described here integrates a system of preparing in vitro
3D models embedded in a model extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffold of Type I collagen with fluorescently labeled probes uniformly distributed for position- and time-dependent microrheology measurements throughout the specimen. In vitro
tumors are plated and probed in parallel conditions using multiwell imaging plates. Drawing on established methods, videos of tracer probe movements are transformed via the Generalized Stokes Einstein Relation (GSER) to report the complex frequency-dependent viscoelastic shear modulus, G*(ω)
. Because this approach is imaging-based, mechanical characterization is also mapped onto large transmitted-light spatial fields to simultaneously report qualitative changes in 3D tumor size and phenotype. Representative results showing contrasting mechanical response in sub-regions associated with localized invasion-induced matrix degradation as well as system calibration, validation data are presented. Undesirable outcomes from common experimental errors and troubleshooting of these issues are also presented. The 96-well 3D culture plating format implemented in this protocol is conducive to correlation of microrheology measurements with therapeutic screening assays or molecular imaging to gain new insights into impact of treatments or biochemical stimuli on the mechanical microenvironment.
Bioengineering, Issue 88, viscoelasticity, mechanobiology, extracellular matrix (ECM), matrix remodeling, 3D tumor models, tumor microenvironment, stroma, matrix metalloprotease (MMP), epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)
Designing Silk-silk Protein Alloy Materials for Biomedical Applications
Institutions: Rowan University, Rowan University, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Rowan University.
Fibrous proteins display different sequences and structures that have been used for various applications in biomedical fields such as biosensors, nanomedicine, tissue regeneration, and drug delivery. Designing materials based on the molecular-scale interactions between these proteins will help generate new multifunctional protein alloy biomaterials with tunable properties. Such alloy material systems also provide advantages in comparison to traditional synthetic polymers due to the materials biodegradability, biocompatibility, and tenability in the body. This article used the protein blends of wild tussah silk (Antheraea pernyi
) and domestic mulberry silk (Bombyx mori
) as an example to provide useful protocols regarding these topics, including how to predict protein-protein interactions by computational methods, how to produce protein alloy solutions, how to verify alloy systems by thermal analysis, and how to fabricate variable alloy materials including optical materials with diffraction gratings, electric materials with circuits coatings, and pharmaceutical materials for drug release and delivery. These methods can provide important information for designing the next generation multifunctional biomaterials based on different protein alloys.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, protein alloys, biomaterials, biomedical, silk blends, computational simulation, implantable electronic devices
Density Gradient Multilayered Polymerization (DGMP): A Novel Technique for Creating Multi-compartment, Customizable Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering
Institutions: University of California, San Diego , University of California, San Diego , University of California, San Diego .
Complex tissue culture matrices, in which types and concentrations of biological stimuli (e.g.
growth factors, inhibitors, or small molecules) or matrix structure (e.g.
composition, concentration, or stiffness of the matrix) vary over space, would enable a wide range of investigations concerning how these variables affect cell differentiation, migration, and other phenomena. The major challenge in creating layered matrices is maintaining the structural integrity of layer interfaces without diffusion of individual components from each layer1
. Current methodologies to achieve this include photopatterning2-3
, sequential functionalization5, freeze drying6
, or centrifugation8
, many of which require sophisticated instrumentation and technical skills. Others rely on sequential attachment of individual layers, which may lead to delamination of layers9
DGMP overcomes these issues by using an inert density modifier such as iodixanol to create layers of varying densities10
. Since the density modifier can be mixed with any prepolymer or bioactive molecule, DGMP allows each scaffold layer to be customized. Simply varying the concentration of the density modifier prevents mixing of adjacent layers while they remain aqueous. Subsequent single step polymerization gives rise to a structurally continuous multilayered scaffold, in which each layer has distinct chemical and mechanical properties. The density modifier can be easily removed with sufficient rinsing without perturbation of the individual layers or their components. This technique is therefore well suited for creating hydrogels of various sizes, shapes, and materials.
A protocol for fabricating a 2D-polyethylene glycol (PEG) gel, in which alternating layers incorporate RGDS-350, is outlined below. We use PEG because it is biocompatible and inert. RGDS, a cell adhesion peptide11
, is used to demonstrate spatial restriction of a biological cue, and the conjugation of a fluorophore (Alexa Fluor 350) enables us to visually distinguish various layers. This procedure can be adapted for other materials (e.g.
collagen, hyaluronan, etc.) and can be extended to fabricate 3D gels with some modifications10
Bioengineering, Issue 72, Biomedical Engineering, Tissue Engineering, Cell Culture Techniques, Tissue Culture Techniques, hydrogels, life sciences, bioengineering (general), Scaffolds, hydrogels, cell culture, polyethylene glycol, RGDS
Creating Adhesive and Soluble Gradients for Imaging Cell Migration with Fluorescence Microscopy
Institutions: The University of New South Wales, The University of New South Wales.
Cells can sense and migrate towards higher concentrations of adhesive cues such as the glycoproteins of the extracellular matrix and soluble cues such as growth factors. Here, we outline a method to create opposing gradients of adhesive and soluble cues in a microfluidic chamber, which is compatible with live cell imaging. A copolymer of poly-L-lysine and polyethylene glycol (PLL-PEG) is employed to passivate glass coverslips and prevent non-specific adsorption of biomolecules and cells. Next, microcontact printing or dip pen lithography are used to create tracks of streptavidin on the passivated surfaces to serve as anchoring points for the biotinylated peptide arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD) as the adhesive cue. A microfluidic device is placed onto the modified surface and used to create the gradient of adhesive cues (100% RGD to 0% RGD) on the streptavidin tracks. Finally, the same microfluidic device is used to create a gradient of a chemoattractant such as fetal bovine serum (FBS), as the soluble cue in the opposite direction of the gradient of adhesive cues.
Bioengineering, Issue 74, Microbiology, Cellular Biology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Biophysics, Cell migration, live cell imaging, soluble and adherent gradients, microcontact printing, dip pen lithography, microfluidics, RGD, PEG, biotin, streptavidin, chemotaxis, chemoattractant, imaging
Printing Thermoresponsive Reverse Molds for the Creation of Patterned Two-component Hydrogels for 3D Cell Culture
Institutions: Cartilage Engineering & Regeneration, Innovent e.V..
Bioprinting is an emerging technology that has its origins in the rapid prototyping industry. The different printing processes can be divided into contact bioprinting1-4
(extrusion, dip pen and soft lithography), contactless bioprinting5-7
(laser forward transfer, ink-jet deposition) and laser based techniques such as two photon photopolymerization8
. It can be used for many applications such as tissue engineering9-13
, biosensor microfabrication14-16
and as a tool to answer basic biological questions such as influences of co-culturing of different cell types17
. Unlike common photolithographic or soft-lithographic methods, extrusion bioprinting has the advantage that it does not require a separate mask or stamp. Using CAD software, the design of the structure can quickly be changed and adjusted according to the requirements of the operator. This makes bioprinting more flexible than lithography-based approaches.
Here we demonstrate the printing of a sacrificial mold to create a multi-material 3D structure using an array of pillars within a hydrogel as an example. These pillars could represent hollow structures for a vascular network or the tubes within a nerve guide conduit. The material chosen for the sacrificial mold was poloxamer 407, a thermoresponsive polymer with excellent printing properties which is liquid at 4 °C and a solid above its gelation temperature ~20 °C for 24.5% w/v solutions18
. This property allows the poloxamer-based sacrificial mold to be eluted on demand and has advantages over the slow dissolution of a solid material especially for narrow geometries. Poloxamer was printed on microscope glass slides to create the sacrificial mold. Agarose was pipetted into the mold and cooled until gelation. After elution of the poloxamer in ice cold water, the voids in the agarose mold were filled with alginate methacrylate spiked with FITC labeled fibrinogen. The filled voids were then cross-linked with UV and the construct was imaged with an epi-fluorescence microscope.
Bioengineering, Issue 77, Immunology, Cellular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Molecular Biology, Materials Science, Tissue Engineering, Biomaterials, Hydrogel, Biopolymers, Structured/Patterned Hydrogels, Bioprinter, Sacrificial Mold, Thermoresponsive Polymers, Poloxamer, tissue, polymer, matrix, cell, cell culture
Synthesis of an Intein-mediated Artificial Protein Hydrogel
Institutions: Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas A&M University, College Station.
We present the synthesis of a highly stable protein hydrogel mediated by a split-intein-catalyzed protein trans
-splicing reaction. The building blocks of this hydrogel are two protein block-copolymers each containing a subunit of a trimeric protein that serves as a crosslinker and one half of a split intein. A highly hydrophilic random coil is inserted into one of the block-copolymers for water retention. Mixing of the two protein block copolymers triggers an intein trans
-splicing reaction, yielding a polypeptide unit with crosslinkers at either end that rapidly self-assembles into a hydrogel. This hydrogel is very stable under both acidic and basic conditions, at temperatures up to 50 °C, and in organic solvents. The hydrogel rapidly reforms after shear-induced rupture. Incorporation of a "docking station peptide" into the hydrogel building block enables convenient incorporation of "docking protein"-tagged target proteins. The hydrogel is compatible with tissue culture growth media, supports the diffusion of 20 kDa molecules, and enables the immobilization of bioactive globular proteins. The application of the intein-mediated protein hydrogel as an organic-solvent-compatible biocatalyst was demonstrated by encapsulating the horseradish peroxidase enzyme and corroborating its activity.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, split-intein, self-assembly, shear-thinning, enzyme, immobilization, organic synthesis
Microwave-assisted Functionalization of Poly(ethylene glycol) and On-resin Peptides for Use in Chain Polymerizations and Hydrogel Formation
Institutions: University of Rochester, University of Rochester, University of Rochester Medical Center.
One of the main benefits to using poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) macromers in hydrogel formation is synthetic versatility. The ability to draw from a large variety of PEG molecular weights and configurations (arm number, arm length, and branching pattern) affords researchers tight control over resulting hydrogel structures and properties, including Young’s modulus and mesh size. This video will illustrate a rapid, efficient, solvent-free, microwave-assisted method to methacrylate PEG precursors into poly(ethylene glycol) dimethacrylate (PEGDM). This synthetic method provides much-needed starting materials for applications in drug delivery and regenerative medicine. The demonstrated method is superior to traditional methacrylation methods as it is significantly faster and simpler, as well as more economical and environmentally friendly, using smaller amounts of reagents and solvents. We will also demonstrate an adaptation of this technique for on-resin methacrylamide functionalization of peptides. This on-resin method allows the N-terminus of peptides to be functionalized with methacrylamide groups prior to deprotection and cleavage from resin. This allows for selective addition of methacrylamide groups to the N-termini of the peptides while amino acids with reactive side groups (e.g.
primary amine of lysine, primary alcohol of serine, secondary alcohols of threonine, and phenol of tyrosine) remain protected, preventing functionalization at multiple sites. This article will detail common analytical methods (proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy (;
H-NMR) and Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time of Flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-ToF)) to assess the efficiency of the functionalizations. Common pitfalls and suggested troubleshooting methods will be addressed, as will modifications of the technique which can be used to further tune macromer functionality and resulting hydrogel physical and chemical properties. Use of synthesized products for the formation of hydrogels for drug delivery and cell-material interaction studies will be demonstrated, with particular attention paid to modifying hydrogel composition to affect mesh size, controlling hydrogel stiffness and drug release.
Chemistry, Issue 80, Poly(ethylene glycol), peptides, polymerization, polymers, methacrylation, peptide functionalization, 1H-NMR, MALDI-ToF, hydrogels, macromer synthesis
Preparation of DNA-crosslinked Polyacrylamide Hydrogels
Institutions: JFK Medical Center, Rutgers University, Rutgers University.
Mechanobiology is an emerging scientific area that addresses the critical role of physical cues in directing cell morphology and function. For example, the effect of tissue elasticity on cell function is a major area of mechanobiology research because tissue stiffness modulates with disease, development, and injury. Static tissue-mimicking materials, or materials that cannot alter stiffness once cells are plated, are predominately used to investigate the effects of tissue stiffness on cell functions. While information gathered from static studies is valuable, these studies are not indicative of the dynamic nature of the cellular microenvironment in vivo
. To better address the effects of dynamic stiffness on cell function, we developed a DNA-crosslinked polyacrylamide hydrogel system (DNA gels). Unlike other dynamic substrates, DNA gels have the ability to decrease or increase in stiffness after fabrication without stimuli. DNA gels consist of DNA crosslinks that are polymerized into a polyacrylamide backbone. Adding and removing crosslinks via delivery of single-stranded DNA allows temporal, spatial, and reversible control of gel elasticity. We have shown in previous reports that dynamic modulation of DNA gel elasticity influences fibroblast and neuron behavior. In this report and video, we provide a schematic that describes the DNA gel crosslinking mechanisms and step-by-step instructions on the preparation DNA gels.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, bioengineering (general), Elastic, viscoelastic, bis-acrylamide, substrate, stiffness, dynamic, static, neuron, fibroblast, compliance, ECM, mechanobiology, tunable
Fabrication of Micropatterned Hydrogels for Neural Culture Systems using Dynamic Mask Projection Photolithography
Institutions: Tulane University.
Increasingly, patterned cell culture environments are becoming a relevant technique to study cellular characteristics, and many researchers believe in the need for 3D environments to represent in vitro
experiments which better mimic in vivo
. Studies in fields such as cancer research 4
, neural engineering 5
, cardiac physiology 6
, and cell-matrix interaction7,8
have shown cell behavior differs substantially between traditional monolayer cultures and 3D constructs.
Hydrogels are used as 3D environments because of their variety, versatility and ability to tailor molecular composition through functionalization 9-12
. Numerous techniques exist for creation of constructs as cell-supportive matrices, including electrospinning13
, elastomer stamps14
, inkjet printing15
, additive photopatterning16
, static photomask projection-lithography17
, and dynamic mask microstereolithography18
. Unfortunately, these methods involve multiple production steps and/or equipment not readily adaptable to conventional cell and tissue culture methods. The technique employed in this protocol adapts the latter two methods, using a digital micromirror device (DMD) to create dynamic photomasks for crosslinking geometrically specific poly-(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrogels, induced through UV initiated free radical polymerization. The resulting "2.5D" structures provide a constrained 3D environment for neural growth. We employ a dual-hydrogel approach, where PEG serves as a cell-restrictive region supplying structure to an otherwise shapeless but cell-permissive self-assembling gel made from either Puramatrix or agarose. The process is a quick simple one step fabrication which is highly reproducible and easily adapted for use with conventional cell culture methods and substrates.
Whole tissue explants, such as embryonic dorsal root ganglia (DRG), can be incorporated into the dual hydrogel constructs for experimental assays such as neurite outgrowth. Additionally, dissociated cells can be encapsulated in the photocrosslinkable or self polymerizing hydrogel, or selectively adhered to the permeable support membrane using cell-restrictive photopatterning. Using the DMD, we created hydrogel constructs up to ~1mm thick, but thin film (<200 μm) PEG structures were limited by oxygen quenching of the free radical polymerization reaction. We subsequently developed a technique utilizing a layer of oil above the polymerization liquid which allowed thin PEG structure polymerization.
In this protocol, we describe the expeditious creation of 3D hydrogel systems for production of microfabricated neural cell and tissue cultures. The dual hydrogel constructs demonstrated herein represent versatile in vitro
models that may prove useful for studies in neuroscience involving cell survival, migration, and/or neurite growth and guidance. Moreover, as the protocol can work for many types of hydrogels and cells, the potential applications are both varied and vast.
Bioengineering, Issue 48, Micropatterning, Photopolymerization, Hydrogels, Cell Culture, Tissue Engineering, Neural Engineering
Studying the Effects of Matrix Stiffness on Cellular Function using Acrylamide-based Hydrogels
Institutions: University of Pennsylvania .
Tissue stiffness is an important determinant of cellular function, and changes in tissue stiffness are commonly associated with fibrosis, cancer and cardiovascular disease1-11
. Traditional cell biological approaches to studying cellular function involve culturing cells on a rigid substratum (plastic dishes or glass coverslips) which cannot account for the effect of an elastic ECM or the variations in ECM stiffness between tissues. To model in vivo
tissue compliance conditions in vitro
, we and others use ECM-coated hydrogels. In our laboratory, the hydrogels are based on polyacrylamide which can mimic the range of tissue compliances seen biologically12
. "Reactive" cover slips are generated by incubation with NaOH followed by addition of 3-APTMS. Glutaraldehyde is used to cross-link the 3-APTMS and the polyacrylamide gel. A solution of acrylamide (AC), bis-acrylamide (Bis-AC) and ammonium persulfate is used for the polymerization of the hydrogel. N-hydroxysuccinimide (NHS) is incorporated into the AC solution to crosslink ECM protein to the hydrogel. Following polymerization of the hydrogel, the gel surface is coated with an ECM protein of choice such as fibronectin, vitronectin, collagen, etc.
The stiffness of a hydrogel can be determined by rheology or atomic force microscopy (AFM) and adjusted by varying the percentage of AC and/or bis-AC in the solution12
. In this manner, substratum stiffness can be matched to the stiffness of biological tissues which can also be quantified using rheology or AFM. Cells can then be seeded on these hydrogels and cultured based upon the experimental conditions required. Imaging of the cells and their recovery for molecular analysis is straightforward. For this article, we define soft substrata as those having elastic moduli (E) <3000 Pascal and stiff substrata/tissues as those with E >20,000 Pascal.
Cellular Biology, Issue 42, substrata stiffness, polyacrylamide, hydrogel, synthetic matrix, extracellular matrix, ECM
A Gradient-generating Microfluidic Device for Cell Biology
Institutions: Brigham and Women's Hospital.
The fabrication and operation of a gradient-generating microfluidic device for studying cellular behavior is described. A microfluidic platform is an enabling experimental tool, because it can precisely manipulate fluid flows, enable high-throughput experiments, and generate stable soluble concentration gradients. Compared to conventional gradient generators, poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS)-based microfluidic devices can generate stable concentration gradients of growth factors with well-defined profiles. Here, we developed simple gradient-generating microfluidic devices with three separate inlets. Three microchannels combined into one microchannel to generate concentration gradients. The stability and shape of growth factor gradients were confirmed by fluorescein isothyiocyanate (FITC)-dextran with a molecular weight similar to epidermal growth factor (EGF). Using this microfluidic device, we demonstrated that fibroblasts exposed to concentration gradients of EGF migrated toward higher concentrations. The directional orientation of cell migration and motility of migrating cells were quantitatively assessed by cell tracking analysis. Thus, this gradient-generating microfluidic device might be useful for studying and analyzing the behavior of migrating cells.
Issue 7, Cell Biology, tissue engineering, microfluidic, cell migration, gradient