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!
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 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
Gene Transfection toward Spheroid Cells on Micropatterned Culture Plates for Genetically-modified Cell Transplantation
Institutions: The University of Tokyo, The University of Tokyo, The University of Tokyo.
To improve the therapeutic effectiveness of cell transplantation, a transplantation system of genetically modified, injectable spheroids was developed. The cell spheroids are prepared in a culture system on micropatterned plates coated with a thermosensitive polymer. A number of spheroids are formed on the plates, corresponding to the cell adhesion areas of 100 µm diameter that are regularly arrayed in a two-dimensional manner, surrounded by non-adhesive areas that are coated by a polyethylene glycol (PEG) matrix. The spheroids can be easily recovered as a liquid suspension by lowering the temperature of the plates, and their structure is well maintained by passing them through injection needles with a sufficiently large caliber (over 27 G). Genetic modification is achieved by gene transfection using the original non-viral gene carrier, polyplex nanomicelle, which is capable of introducing genes into cells without disrupting the spheroid structure. For primary hepatocyte spheroids transfected with a luciferase-expressing gene, the luciferase is sustainably obtained in transplanted animals, along with preserved hepatocyte function, as indicated by albumin expression. This system can be applied to a variety of cell types including mesenchymal stem cells.
Bioengineering, Issue 101, Spheroid, Cell transplantation, Gene transfection, Non-viral carrier, Micropatterned plate, Genetic modification
A Simple Hanging Drop Cell Culture Protocol for Generation of 3D Spheroids
Institutions: UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Studies of cell-cell cohesion and cell-substratum adhesion have historically been performed on monolayer cultures adherent to rigid substrates. Cells within a tissue, however, are typically encased within a closely packed tissue mass in which cells establish intimate connections with many near-neighbors and with extracellular matrix components. Accordingly, the chemical milieu and physical forces experienced by cells within a 3D tissue are fundamentally different than those experienced by cells grown in monolayer culture. This has been shown to markedly impact cellular morphology and signaling. Several methods have been devised to generate 3D cell cultures including encapsulation of cells in collagen gels1
or in biomaterial scaffolds2
. Such methods, while useful, do not recapitulate the intimate direct cell-cell adhesion architecture found in normal tissues. Rather, they more closely approximate culture systems in which single cells are loosely dispersed within a 3D meshwork of ECM products. Here, we describe a simple method in which cells are placed in hanging drop culture and incubated under physiological conditions until they form true 3D spheroids in which cells are in direct contact with each other and with extracellular matrix components. The method requires no specialized equipment and can be adapted to include addition of any biological agent in very small quantities that may be of interest in elucidating effects on cell-cell or cell-ECM interaction. The method can also be used to co-culture two (or more) different cell populations so as to elucidate the role of cell-cell or cell-ECM interactions in specifying spatial relationships between cells. Cell-cell cohesion and cell-ECM adhesion are the cornerstones of studies of embryonic development, tumor-stromal cell interaction in malignant invasion, wound healing, and for applications to tissue engineering. This simple method will provide a means of generating tissue-like cellular aggregates for measurement of biomechanical properties or for molecular and biochemical analysis in a physiologically relevant model.
Bioengineering, Issue 51, 3D, hanging drop cultures, cell sorting-out, differential adhesion
Human Cartilage Tissue Fabrication Using Three-dimensional Inkjet Printing Technology
Institutions: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Stemorgan Inc., Technical University of Munich, Wuhan University, The Scripps Research Institute, Tokyo University of Science.
Bioprinting, which is based on thermal inkjet printing, is one of the most attractive enabling technologies in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. With digital control cells, scaffolds, and growth factors can be precisely deposited to the desired two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) locations rapidly. Therefore, this technology is an ideal approach to fabricate tissues mimicking their native anatomic structures. In order to engineer cartilage with native zonal organization, extracellular matrix composition (ECM), and mechanical properties, we developed a bioprinting platform using a commercial inkjet printer with simultaneous photopolymerization capable for 3D cartilage tissue engineering. Human chondrocytes suspended in poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) were printed for 3D neocartilage construction via layer-by-layer assembly. The printed cells were fixed at their original deposited positions, supported by the surrounding scaffold in simultaneous photopolymerization. The mechanical properties of the printed tissue were similar to the native cartilage. Compared to conventional tissue fabrication, which requires longer UV exposure, the viability of the printed cells with simultaneous photopolymerization was significantly higher. Printed neocartilage demonstrated excellent glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and collagen type II production, which was consistent with gene expression. Therefore, this platform is ideal for accurate cell distribution and arrangement for anatomic tissue engineering.
Bioengineering, Issue 88, cartilage, inkjet printing, chondrocytes, hydrogel, photopolymerization, tissue engineering
Micro 3D Printing Using a Digital Projector and its Application in the Study of Soft Materials Mechanics
Institutions: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Buckling is a classical topic in mechanics. While buckling has long been studied as one of the major structural failure modes1
, it has recently drawn new attention as a unique mechanism for pattern transformation. Nature is full of such examples where a wealth of exotic patterns are formed through mechanical instability2-5
. Inspired by this elegant mechanism, many studies have demonstrated creation and transformation of patterns using soft materials such as elastomers and hydrogels6-11
. Swelling gels are of particular interest because they can spontaneously trigger mechanical instability to create various patterns without the need of external force6-10
. Recently, we have reported demonstration of full control over buckling pattern of micro-scaled tubular gels using projection micro-stereolithography (PμSL), a three-dimensional (3D) manufacturing technology capable of rapidly converting computer generated 3D models into physical objects at high resolution12,13
. Here we present a simple method to build up a simplified PμSL system using a commercially available digital data projector to study swelling-induced buckling instability for controlled pattern transformation.
A simple desktop 3D printer is built using an off-the-shelf digital data projector and simple optical components such as a convex lens and a mirror14
. Cross-sectional images extracted from a 3D solid model is projected on the photosensitive resin surface in sequence, polymerizing liquid resin into a desired 3D solid structure in a layer-by-layer fashion. Even with this simple configuration and easy process, arbitrary 3D objects can be readily fabricated with sub-100 μm resolution.
This desktop 3D printer holds potential in the study of soft material mechanics by offering a great opportunity to explore various 3D geometries. We use this system to fabricate tubular shaped hydrogel structure with different dimensions. Fixed on the bottom to the substrate, the tubular gel develops inhomogeneous stress during swelling, which gives rise to buckling instability. Various wavy patterns appear along the circumference of the tube when the gel structures undergo buckling. Experiment shows that circumferential buckling of desired mode can be created in a controlled manner. Pattern transformation of three-dimensionally structured tubular gels has significant implication not only in mechanics and material science, but also in many other emerging fields such as tunable matamaterials.
Mechanical Engineering, Issue 69, Materials Science, Physics, Chemical Engineering, 3D printing, stereo-lithography, photo-polymerization, gel, swelling, elastic instability, buckling, pattern formation
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
Robotic Production of Cancer Cell Spheroids with an Aqueous Two-phase System for Drug Testing
Institutions: The University of Akron.
Cancer cell spheroids present a relevant in vitro
model of avascular tumors for anti-cancer drug testing applications. A detailed protocol for producing both mono-culture and co-culture spheroids in a high throughput 96-well plate format is described in this work. This approach utilizes an aqueous two-phase system to confine cells into a drop of the denser aqueous phase immersed within the second aqueous phase. The drop rests on the well surface and keeps cells in close proximity to form a single spheroid. This technology has been adapted to a robotic liquid handler to produce size-controlled spheroids and expedite the process of spheroid production for compound screening applications. Spheroids treated with a clinically-used drug show reduced cell viability with increase in the drug dose. The use of a standard micro-well plate for spheroid generation makes it straightforward to analyze viability of cancer cells of drug-treated spheroids with a micro-plate reader. This technology is straightforward to implement both robotically and with other liquid handling tools such as manual pipettes.
Bioengineering, Issue 98, Cancer Cell Spheroid, 3D Culture, Robotic, High Throughput, Co-Culture, Drug Screening
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
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
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)
The Multi-organ Chip - A Microfluidic Platform for Long-term Multi-tissue Coculture
Institutions: Technische Universität Berlin, TissUse GmbH, Fraunhofer IWS.
The ever growing amount of new substances released onto the market and the limited predictability of current in vitro
test systems has led to a high need for new solutions for substance testing. Many drugs that have been removed from the market due to drug-induced liver injury released their toxic potential only after several doses of chronic testing in humans. However, a controlled microenvironment is pivotal for long-term multiple dosing experiments, as even minor alterations in extracellular conditions may greatly influence the cell physiology. We focused within our research program on the generation of a microengineered bioreactor, which can be dynamically perfused by an on-chip pump and combines at least two culture spaces for multi-organ applications. This circulatory system mimics the in vivo
conditions of primary cell cultures better and assures a steadier, more quantifiable extracellular relay of signals to the cells.
For demonstration purposes, human liver equivalents, generated by aggregating differentiated HepaRG cells with human hepatic stellate cells in hanging drop plates, were cocultured with human skin punch biopsies for up to 28 days inside the microbioreactor. The use of cell culture inserts enables the skin to be cultured at an air-liquid interface, allowing topical substance exposure. The microbioreactor system is capable of supporting these cocultures at near physiologic fluid flow and volume-to-liquid ratios, ensuring stable and organotypic culture conditions. The possibility of long-term cultures enables the repeated exposure to substances. Furthermore, a vascularization of the microfluidic channel circuit using human dermal microvascular endothelial cells yields a physiologically more relevant vascular model.
Bioengineering, Issue 98, Multi-organ chip, human-on-a-chip, body-on-a-chip, organs-on-a-chip, microphysiological systems, organoids, tissue engineering, in vitro substance testing, toxicity test, liver, skin, vasculature
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
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 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
Simple Polyacrylamide-based Multiwell Stiffness Assay for the Study of Stiffness-dependent Cell Responses
Institutions: Saint Louis University.
Currently, most of the in vitro
cell research is performed on rigid tissue culture polystyrene (~1 GPa), while most cells in the body are attached to a matrix that is elastic and much softer (0.1 – 100 kPa). Since such stiffness mismatch greatly affects cell responses, there is a strong interest in developing hydrogel materials that span a wide range of stiffness to serve as cell substrates. Polyacrylamide gels, which are inexpensive and cover the stiffness range of all soft tissues in the body, are the hydrogel of choice for many research groups. However, polyacrylamide gel preparation is lengthy, tedious, and only suitable for small batches. Here, we describe an assay which by utilizing a permanent flexible plastic film as a structural support for the gels, enables the preparation of polyacrylamide gels in a multiwell plate format. The technique is faster, more efficient, and less costly than current methods and permits the preparation of gels of custom sizes not otherwise available. As it doesn’t require any specialized equipment, the method could be easily adopted by any research laboratory and would be particularly useful in research focused on understanding stiffness-dependent cell responses.
Bioengineering, Issue 97, Multiwell, substrate stiffness, drug screening, polyacrylamide, Young’s modulus, high-throughput
Insertion of Flexible Neural Probes Using Rigid Stiffeners Attached with Biodissolvable Adhesive
Institutions: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, University of California, San Francisco.
Microelectrode arrays for neural interface devices that are made of biocompatible thin-film polymer are expected to have extended functional lifetime because the flexible material may minimize adverse tissue response caused by micromotion. However, their flexibility prevents them from being accurately inserted into neural tissue. This article demonstrates a method to temporarily attach a flexible microelectrode probe to a rigid stiffener using biodissolvable polyethylene glycol (PEG) to facilitate precise, surgical insertion of the probe. A unique stiffener design allows for uniform distribution of the PEG adhesive along the length of the probe. Flip-chip bonding, a common tool used in microelectronics packaging, enables accurate and repeatable alignment and attachment of the probe to the stiffener. The probe and stiffener are surgically implanted together, then the PEG is allowed to dissolve so that the stiffener can be extracted leaving the probe in place. Finally, an in vitro
test method is used to evaluate stiffener extraction in an agarose gel model of brain tissue. This approach to implantation has proven particularly advantageous for longer flexible probes (>3 mm). It also provides a feasible method to implant dual-sided flexible probes. To date, the technique has been used to obtain various in vivo
recording data from the rat cortex.
Bioengineering, Issue 79, Nervous System Diseases, Surgical Procedures, Operative, Investigative Techniques, Nonmetallic Materials, Engineering (General), neural interfaces, polymer neural probes, surgical insertion, polyethylene glycol, microelectrode arrays, chronic implantation