Author(s): Lewis KJ, Anseth KS
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Abstract Poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrogels represent a versatile material scaffold for culturing cells in two or three dimensions with the advantages of limited protein fouling and cytocompatible polymerization to enable cell encapsulation. By using light-based chemistries for gelation and for incorporating biomolecules into the network, dynamic niches can be created that facilitate the study of how cells respond to user-dictated or cell-dictated changes in environmental signals. Specifically, we demonstrate integration of a photo-cleavable molecule into network cross-links and into pendant functional groups to construct gels with biophysical and biochemical properties that are spatiotemporally tunable with light. Complementary to this approach, an enzymatically cleavable peptide sequence can be introduced within hydrogel networks, in this case through photoinitiated addition reactions between thiol-containing biomacromolecules and ene-containing synthetic polymers, to enable cellular remodeling of their surrounding hydrogel microenvironment. With such tunable material platforms, researchers can employ a systematic approach for 3D cell culture experiments, spatially and temporally modulating physical properties (e.g., stiffness) as well as biological signals (e.g., adhesive ligands) to study cell behavior in response to environmental stimuli. Collectively, these material systems suggest routes for new experimentation to study and manipulate cellular functions in four dimensions.
This article was published in MRS Bull
and referenced in Journal of Tissue Science & Engineering