Multiple patterns of polymer gels in microspheres due to the interplay among phase separation, wetting, and gelation.
ABSTRACT: We report the spontaneous patterning of polymer microgels by confining a polymer blend within microspheres. A poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) and gelatin solution was confined inside water-in-oil (W/O) microdroplets coated with a layer of zwitterionic lipids: dioleoylphosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (PC). The droplet confinement affected the kinetics of the phase separation, wetting, and gelation after a temperature quench, which determined the final microgel pattern. The gelatin-rich phase completely wetted to the PE membrane and formed a hollow microcapsule as a stable state in the PE droplets. Gelation during phase separation varied the relation between the droplet size and thickness of the capsule wall. In the case of the PC droplets, phase separation was completed only for the smaller droplets, wherein the microgel partially wetted the PC membrane and had a hemisphere shape. In addition, the temperature decrease below the gelation point increased the interfacial tension between the PEG/gelatin phases and triggered a dewetting transition. Interestingly, the accompanying shape deformation to minimize the interfacial area was only observed for the smaller PC droplets. The critical size decreased as the gelatin concentration increased, indicating the role of the gel elasticity as an inhibitor of the deformation. Furthermore, variously patterned microgels with spherically asymmetric shapes, such as discs and stars, were produced as kinetically trapped states by regulating the incubation time, polymer composition, and droplet size. These findings demonstrate a way to regulate the complex shapes of microgels using the interplay among phase separation, wetting, and gelation of confined polymer blends in microdroplets.
Project description:Even though microgels are used in a wide variety of applications, determining their mechanical properties has been elusive because of the difficulties in analysis. In this study, we investigated the surface elasticity of a spherical microgel of gelatin prepared inside a lipid droplet by using micropipet aspiration. We found that gelation inside a microdroplet covered with lipid membranes increased Young's modulus E toward a plateau value E* along with a decrease in gel size. In the case of 5.0 wt % gelatin gelled inside a microsized lipid space, the E* for small microgels with R ? 50 ?m was 10-fold higher (35-39 kPa) than that for the bulk gel (?3 kPa). Structural analysis using circular dichroism spectroscopy and a fluorescence indicator for ordered beta sheets demonstrated that the smaller microgels contained more beta sheets in the structure than the bulk gel. Our finding indicates that the confinement size of gelling polymers becomes a factor in the variation of elasticity of protein-based microgels via secondary structure changes.
Project description:We describe here a physical-organic study of the first triphasic superhydrophobic sensitizer for photooxidations in water droplets. Control of synthetic parameters enables the mechanistic study of "borderline" two- and three-phase superhydrophobic sensitizer surfaces where (1)O2 is generated in compartments that are wetted, partially wetted, or remain dry in the plastron (i.e., air layer beneath the droplet). The superhydrophobic surface is synthesized by partially embedding silicon phthalocyanine (Pc) sensitizing particles to specific locations on polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) posts printed in a square array (1 mm tall posts on 0.5 mm pitch). In the presence of red light and oxygen, singlet oxygen is formed on the superhydrophobic surface and reacts with 9,10-anthracene dipropionate dianion (1) within a freestanding water droplet to produce an endoperoxide in 54-72% yields. Control of the (1)O2 chemistry was achieved by the synthesis of superhydrophobic surfaces enriched with Pc particles either at the PDMS end-tips or at PDMS post bases. Much of the (1)O2 that reacts with anthracene 1 in the droplets was generated by the sensitizer "wetted" at the Pc particle/water droplet interface and gave the highest endoperoxide yields. About 20% of the (1)O2 can be introduced into the droplet from the plastron. The results indicate that the superhydrophobic sensitizer surface offers a unique system to study (1)O2 transfer routes where a balance of gas and liquid contributions of (1)O2 is tunable within the same superhydrophobic surface.
Project description:Emulsions can be prepared from protein microgel particles as an alternative to traditional emulsifiers. Prior experiments have indicated that smaller and more deformable microgels would decrease both the physical destabilization of emulsions and the diffusion-based losses of entrapped volatile molecules. The microgels were prepared from ?-lactoglobulin with an average diameter of 150 nm, 231 nm, or 266 nm; large microgels were cross-linked to decrease their deformability. Dilute emulsions of 15?50 ?m diameter were prepared with microgels by high shear mixing. Light scattering and microscopy showed that the emulsions prepared with larger, untreated microgels possessed a larger initial droplet size, but were resistant to droplet growth during storage or after acidification, increased ionic strength, and exposure to surfactants. The emulsions prepared with cross-linked microgels emulsions were the least resistant to flocculation, creaming, and shrinkage. All emulsion droplets shrank as limonene was lost during storage, and the inability of microgels to desorb caused droplets to become non-spherical. The microgels were not displaced by Tween 20 but were displaced by excess sodium dodecyl sulfate. Hexanol diffusion and associated shrinkage of pendant droplets was not prevented by any of the microgels, yet the rate of shrinkage was reduced with the largest microgels.
Project description:This work investigates the effect of combining physical and chemical gelation processes in a biopolymer blend: chitosan and tilapia fish gelatin. Chemical (C) gels are obtained by cross-linking with the microbial enzyme transglutaminase at 37?°C. Hybrid physical-co-chemical (PC) gels are cross-linked at 21?°C, below gelatin gelation temperature. These protocols provide two microenvironments for the gelation process: in C gels, both gelatin and chitosan are present as single strands; in PC gels, cross-linking proceeds within a transient physical gel of gelatin, filled by chitosan strands. The chitosan/gelatin chemical networks generated in PC gels show a consistently higher shear modulus than pure C gels; they are also less turbid than their C gels counterparts, suggesting a more homogeneous network. Finally, chitosan enhances the gels' shear modulus in all gels. Proliferation assays show that MC3T3 cells proliferate in these mixed, hybrid gels and better so on PC gels than in C mixed gels.
Project description:Phosphatidylcholine (PC) and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) composition in skeletal muscle have been linked to insulin sensitivity. We evaluated the relationships between skeletal muscle PC:PE, physical exercise and insulin sensitivity. We performed lipidomics and measured PC and PE in m. vastus lateralis biopsies obtained from 13 normoglycemic normal weight men and 13 dysglycemic overweight men at rest, immediately after 45?min of cycling at 70% maximum oxygen uptake, and 2?h post-exercise, before as well as after 12 weeks of combined endurance- and strength-exercise intervention. Insulin sensitivity was monitored by euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp. RNA-sequencing was performed on biopsies, and mitochondria and lipid droplets were quantified on electron microscopic images. Exercise intervention for 12?w enhanced insulin sensitivity by 33%, skeletal muscle levels of PC by 21%, PE by 42%, and reduced PC:PE by 16%. One bicycle session reduced PC:PE by 5%. PC:PE correlated negatively with insulin sensitivity (??=?-1.6, P?<?0.001), percent area of mitochondria (??=?-0.52, P?=?0.035), and lipid droplet area (??=?0.55, P?=?0.017) on EM pictures, and negatively with oxidative phosphorylation and mTOR based on RNA-sequencing. In conclusion, PC and PE contents of skeletal muscle respond to exercise, and PC:PE is inversely related to insulin sensitivity.
Project description:Monodisperse alginate microgels (10-50 ?m) are created via droplet-based microfluidics by a novel crosslinking procedure. Ionic crosslinking of alginate is induced by release of chelated calcium ions. The process separates droplet formation and gelation reaction enabling excellent control over size and homogeneity under mild reaction conditions. Living mesenchymal stem cells are encapsulated and cultured in the generated 3D microenvironments.
Project description:Eukaryotic chromatin is highly condensed but dynamically accessible to regulation and organized into subdomains. We demonstrate that reconstituted chromatin undergoes histone tail-driven liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) in physiologic salt and when microinjected into cell nuclei, producing dense and dynamic droplets. Linker histone H1 and internucleosome linker lengths shared across eukaryotes promote phase separation of chromatin, tune droplet properties, and coordinate to form condensates of consistent density in manners that parallel chromatin behavior in cells. Histone acetylation by p300 antagonizes chromatin phase separation, dissolving droplets in vitro and decreasing droplet formation in nuclei. In the presence of multi-bromodomain proteins, such as BRD4, highly acetylated chromatin forms a new phase-separated state with droplets of distinct physical properties, which can be immiscible with unmodified chromatin droplets, mimicking nuclear chromatin subdomains. Our data suggest a framework, based on intrinsic phase separation of the chromatin polymer, for understanding the organization and regulation of eukaryotic genomes.
Project description:Surface ratchets can guide droplet transport for microfluidic systems. Here, we demonstrated the actuation of microgels encapsulated in droplets using a unidirectional nanotextured surface, which moves droplets with low vibration amplitudes by a ratcheting mechanism. The nanofilm carries droplets along the ratchets with minimal drop shape deformation to move the encapsulated soft cargo, i.e., microscale hydrogels. The tilted nanorods of the nanofilm produce unidirectional wetting, thereby enabling droplet motion in a single direction. Maximum droplet translation speed on the nanofilm was determined to be 3.5 mm∕s, which offers a pathway towards high throughput microgel assembly applications to build complex constructs.
Project description:Microfabrication technology provides a highly versatile platform for engineering hydrogels used in biomedical applications with high-resolution control and injectability. Herein, we present a strategy of microfluidics-assisted fabrication photo-cross-linkable gelatin microgels, coupled with providing protective silica hydrogel layer on the microgel surface to ultimately generate gelatin-silica core-shell microgels for applications as in vitro cell culture platform and injectable tissue constructs. A microfluidic device having flow-focusing channel geometry was utilized to generate droplets containing methacrylated gelatin (GelMA), followed by a photo-cross-linking step to synthesize GelMA microgels. The size of the microgels could easily be controlled by varying the ratio of flow rates of aqueous and oil phases. Then, the GelMA microgels were used as in vitro cell culture platform to grow cardiac side population cells on the microgel surface. The cells readily adhered on the microgel surface and proliferated over time while maintaining high viability (?90%). The cells on the microgels were also able to migrate to their surrounding area. In addition, the microgels eventually degraded over time. These results demonstrate that cell-seeded GelMA microgels have a great potential as injectable tissue constructs. Furthermore, we demonstrated that coating the cells on GelMA microgels with biocompatible and biodegradable silica hydrogels via sol-gel method provided significant protection against oxidative stress which is often encountered during and after injection into host tissues, and detrimental to the cells. Overall, the microfluidic approach to generate cell-adhesive microgel core, coupled with silica hydrogels as a protective shell, will be highly useful as a cell culture platform to generate a wide range of injectable tissue constructs.
Project description:Single cell-laden three-dimensional (3D) microgels that can serve to mimic stem cell niches in vitro, and are therefore termed microniches, can be efficiently fabricated by droplet-based microfluidics. In this technique an aqueous polymer solution along with a highly diluted cell solution is injected into a microfluidic device to create monodisperse pre-microgel droplets that are then solidified by a polymer crosslinking reaction to obtain monodisperse single cell-laden microniches. However, problems limiting this approach studying the fate of single cells include Poisson encapsulation statistics that result in mostly empty microniches, and cells egressing from the microniches during subsequent cell culture. Here, we present a strategy to bypass Poisson encapsulation statistics in synthetic microniches by selective crosslinking of only cell-laden pre-microgel droplets. Furthermore, we show that we can position cells in the center of the microniches, and that even in protease-sensitive microniches this greatly reduces cell egress. Collectively, we present the development of a versatile protocol that allows for unprecedented efficiency in creation of synthetic protease-sensitive microniches for probing single stem cell fate in 3D.