ABSTRACT: To investigate how cells sense stiffness in settings structurally similar to native extracellular matrices, we designed a synthetic fibrous material with tunable mechanics and user-defined architecture. In contrast to flat hydrogel surfaces, these fibrous materials recapitulated cell-matrix interactions observed with collagen matrices including stellate cell morphologies, cell-mediated realignment of fibres, and bulk contraction of the material. Increasing the stiffness of flat hydrogel surfaces induced mesenchymal stem cell spreading and proliferation; however, increasing fibre stiffness instead suppressed spreading and proliferation for certain network architectures. Lower fibre stiffness permitted active cellular forces to recruit nearby fibres, dynamically increasing ligand density at the cell surface and promoting the formation of focal adhesions and related signalling. These studies demonstrate a departure from the well-described relationship between material stiffness and spreading established with hydrogel surfaces, and introduce fibre recruitment as a previously undescribed mechanism by which cells probe and respond to mechanics in fibrillar matrices.
Project description:Three-dimensional printed hydrogel constructs with well-organized melt electrowritten (MEW) fibrereinforcing scaffolds have been demonstrated as a promising regenerative approach to treat small cartilage defects. Here, we investige how to translate the fabrication of small fibre-reinforced structures on flat surfaces to anatomically relevant structures. In particular, the accurate deposition of MEW-fibres onto curved surfaces of conductive and non-conductive regenerative biomaterials is studied. This study reveals that clinically relevant materials with low conductivities are compatible with resurfacing with organized MEW fibres. Importantly, accurate patterning on non-flat surfaces was successfully shown, provided that a constant electrical field strength and an electrical force normal to the substrate material is maintained. Furthermore, the application of resurfacing the geometry of the medial human femoral condyle is confirmed by the fabrication of a personalised osteochondral implant. The implant composed of an articular cartilage-resident chondroprogenitor cells (ACPCs)-laden hydrogel reinforced with a well-organized MEW scaffold retained its personalised shape, improved its compressive properties and supported neocartilage formation after 28 days in vitro culture. Overall, this study establishes the groundwork for translatingMEWfrom planar and non-resorbable material substrates to anatomically relevant geometries and regenerative materials that the regenerative medicine field aims to create.
Project description:Growing environmental concerns and stringent waste-flow regulations make the development of sustainable composites a current industrial necessity. Natural fibre reinforcements are derived from renewable resources and are both cheap and biodegradable. When they are produced using eco-friendly, low hazard processes, then they can be considered as a sustainable source of fibrous reinforcement. Furthermore, their specific mechanical properties are comparable to commonly used, non-environmentally friendly glass-fibres. In this study, four types of abundant natural fibres (jute, kenaf, curaua, and flax) are investigated as naturally-derived constituents for high performance composites. Physical, thermal, and mechanical properties of the natural fibres are examined to evaluate their suitability as discontinuous reinforcements whilst also generating a database for material selection. Single fibre tensile and microbond tests were performed to obtain stiffness, strength, elongation, and interfacial shear strength of the fibres with an epoxy resin. Moreover, the critical fibre lengths of the natural fibres, which are important for defining the mechanical performances of discontinuous and short fibre composites, were calculated for the purpose of possible processing of highly aligned discontinuous fibres. This study is informative regarding the selection of the type and length of natural fibres for the subsequent production of discontinuous fibre composites.
Project description:Collagen hydrogel is a popular extracellular matrix (ECM) material in regenerative medicine and has an isotropic structure. In contrast, native ECM has an anisotropic structure. Electrospinning of collagen dissolved in organic solvents is widely used for fabricating anisotropic collagen nanofibres; however, such fibres are water-soluble and require cross-linking before use as scaffolds for cell culture. Herein, electrospinning using a core-shell nozzle was employed to spin an aqueous acidic solution of collagen and encapsulate it within a shell of polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP). Subsequently, the core collagen was gelled, and the shell PVP was washed away using a basic ethanol solution to yield anisotropic collagen hydrogel nanofibres. Immunostaining and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy revealed that the obtained fibres were composed of collagen, and surface PVP was removed completely. Circular dichroism measurements confirmed that the fibres exhibited the triple helical structure characteristic of collagen. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells cultured on the collagen hydrogel fibres were oriented along the fibre direction. Hence, this method is suitable for fabricating fibrous anisotropic collagen hydrogels without chemical and thermal cross-linking, and can facilitate the development of safe medical materials with anisotropy similar to that of native ECM.
Project description:The ability to assess changes in smooth muscle contractility and pharmacological responsiveness in normal or pathological-relevant vascular tissue environments is critical to enable vascular drug discovery. However, major challenges remain in both capturing the complexity of in vivo vascular remodeling and evaluating cell contractility in complex, tissue-like environments. Herein, we developed a biomimetic fibrous hydrogel with tunable structure, stiffness, and composition to resemble the native vascular tissue environment. This hydrogel platform was further combined with the combinatory protein array technology as well as advanced approaches to measure cell mechanics and contractility, thus permitting evaluation of smooth muscle functions in a variety of tissue-like microenvironments. Our results demonstrated that biomimetic fibrous structure played a dominant role in smooth muscle function, while the presentation of adhesion proteins co-regulated it to various degrees. Specifically, fibre networks enabled cell infiltration and upregulated expression of actomyosin proteins in contrast to flat hydrogels. Remarkably, fibrous structure and physiologically relevant stiffness of hydrogels cooperatively enhanced smooth muscle contractility and pharmacological responses to vasoactive drugs at both the single cell and intact tissue levels. Together, this study is the first to demonstrate alterations of human vascular smooth muscle contractility and pharmacological responsiveness in biomimetic soft, fibrous environments with a cellular array platform. The integrated platform produced here could enable investigations for pathobiology and pharmacological interventions by developing a broad range of patho-physiologically relevant in vitro tissue models. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE:Engineering functional smooth muscle in vitro holds the great potential for diseased tissue replacement and drug testing. A central challenge is recapitulating the smooth muscle contractility and pharmacological responses given its significant phenotypic plasticity in response to changes in environment. We present a biomimetic fibrous hydrogel with tunable structure, stiffness, and composition that enables the creation of functional smooth muscle tissues in the native-like vascular tissue microenvironment. Such fibrous hydrogel is further combined with the combinatory protein array technology to construct a cellular array for evaluation of smooth muscle phenotype, contraction, and cell mechanics. The integrated platform produced here could be promising for developing a broad range of normal or diseased in vitro tissue models.
Project description:Surfaces of carbon fibre roving were modified by means of a low temperature plasma treatment to improve their bonding with mineral fines; the latter serving as an inorganic fibre coating for the improved mechanical performance of carbon reinforcement in concrete matrices. Variation of the plasma conditions, such as gas composition and treatment time, was accomplished to establish polar groups on the carbon fibres prior to contact with the suspension of mineral particles in water. Subsequently, the rovings were implemented in a fine concrete matrix and their pull-out performance was assessed. Every plasma treatment resulted in increased pull-out forces in comparison to the reference samples without plasma treatment, indicating a better bonding between the mineral coating material and the carbon fibres. Significant differences were found, depending on gas composition and treatment time. Microscopic investigations showed that the samples with the highest pull-out force exhibited carbon fibre surfaces with the largest areas of hydration products grown on them. Additionally, the coating material ingresses into the multifilament roving in these specimens, leading to better force transfer between individual carbon filaments and between the entire roving and surrounding matrix, thus explaining the superior mechanical performance of the specimens containing appropriately plasma-treated carbon roving.
Project description:In tissue engineering, it is well accepted that a scaffold surface has a decisive impact on cell behaviour. Here we focused on microglia-the resident immune cells of the central nervous system (CNS)-and on their response to poly(trimethylene carbonate-co-?-caprolactone) (P(TMC-CL)) fibrous and flat surfaces obtained by electrospinning and solvent cast, respectively. This study aims to provide cues for the design of instructive surfaces that can contribute to the challenging process of CNS regeneration. Cell morphology was evidently affected by the substrate, mirroring the surface main features. Cells cultured on flat substrates presented a round shape, while cells with elongated processes were observed on the electrospun fibres. A higher concentration of the pro-inflammatory cytokine tumour necrosis factor-? was detected in culture media from microglia on fibres. Still, astrogliosis is not exacerbated when astrocytes are cultured in the presence of microglia-conditioned media obtained from cultures in contact with either substrate. Furthermore, a significant percentage of microglia was found to participate in the process of myelin phagocytosis, with the formation of multinucleated giant cells being observed only on films. Altogether, the results presented suggest that microglia in contact with the tested substrates may contribute to the regeneration process, putting forward P(TMC-CL) substrates as supporting matrices for nerve regeneration.
Project description:With interest in the potential of optical fibres as the basis of next-generation thermoluminescence dosimeters (TLDs), the development of suitable forms of material and their fabrication has become a fast-growing endeavour. Present study focuses on three types of Ge-doped optical fibres with different structural arrangements and/or shapes, namely conventional cylindrical fibre, capillary fibre, and flat fibre, all fabricated using the same optical fibre preform. For doses from 0.5 to 8 Gy, obtained at electron and photon energies, standard thermoluminescence (TL) characteristics of the optical fibres have been the subject of detailed investigation. The results show that in collapsing the capillary fibre into a flat shape, the TL yield is increased by a factor of 5.5, the yield being also some 3.2 times greater than that of the conventional cylindrical fibre fabricated from the same perform. This suggests a means of production of suitably sensitive TLD for in-vivo dosimeter applications. Addressing the associated defects generating luminescence from each of the optical fibres, the study encompasses analysis of the TL glow curves, with computerized glow curve deconvolution (CGCD) and 2(nd) order kinetics.
Project description:Bio-composites based on polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) and fibres of Posidonia oceanica (PO) were investigated to assess their processability by extrusion, mechanical properties, and potential biodegradability in a natural marine environment. PHAs were successfully compounded with PO fibres up to 20 wt % while, at 30 wt % of fibres, the addition of 10 wt % of polyethylene glycol (PEG 400) was necessary to improve their processability. Thermal, rheological, mechanical, and morphological characterizations of the developed composites were conducted and the degradation of composite films in a natural marine habitat was evaluated in a mesocosm by weight loss measure during an incubation period of six months. The addition of PO fibres led to an increase in stiffness of the composites with tensile modulus values about 80% higher for composites with 30 wt % fibre (2.3 GPa) compared to unfilled material (1.24 GPa). Furthermore, the impact energy markedly increased with the addition of the PO fibres, from 1.63 (unfilled material) to 3.8 kJ/m² for the composites with 30 wt % PO. The rate of degradation was markedly influenced by seawater temperature and significantly promoted by the presence of PO fibres leading to the total degradation of the film with 30 wt % PO in less than six months. The obtained results showed that the developed composites can be suitable to manufacture items usable in marine environments, for example, in natural engineering interventions, and represent an interesting valorisation of the PO fibrous wastes accumulated in large amounts on coastal beaches.
Project description:Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a malignant brain tumor characterized by diffuse infiltration of single cells into the brain parenchyma, which is a process that relies in part on aberrant biochemical and biophysical interactions between tumor cells and the brain extracellular matrix (ECM). A major obstacle to understanding ECM regulation of GBM invasion is the absence of model matrix systems that recapitulate the distinct composition and physical structure of brain ECM while allowing independent control of adhesive ligand density, mechanics, and microstructure. To address this need, we synthesized brain-mimetic ECMs based on hyaluronic acid (HA) with a range of stiffnesses that encompasses normal and tumorigenic brain tissue and functionalized these materials with short Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) peptides to facilitate cell adhesion. Scanning electron micrographs of the hydrogels revealed a dense, sheet-like microstructure with apparent nanoscale porosity similar to brain extracellular space. On flat hydrogel substrates, glioma cell spreading area and actin stress fiber assembly increased strongly with increasing density of RGD peptide. Increasing HA stiffness under constant RGD density produced similar trends and increased the speed of random motility. In a three-dimensional (3D) spheroid paradigm, glioma cells invaded HA hydrogels with morphological patterns distinct from those observed on flat surfaces or in 3D collagen-based ECMs but highly reminiscent of those seen in brain slices. This material system represents a brain-mimetic model ECM with tunable ligand density and stiffness amenable to investigations of the mechanobiological regulation of brain tumor progression.
Project description:Extracellular matrix stiffness has a profound effect on the behavior of many cell types. Adherent cells apply contractile forces to the material on which they adhere and sense the resistance of the material to deformation-its stiffness. This is dependent on both the elastic modulus and the thickness of the material, with the corollary that single cells are able to sense underlying stiff materials through soft hydrogel materials at low (<10 ?m) thicknesses. Here, we hypothesized that cohesive colonies of cells exert more force and create more hydrogel deformation than single cells, therefore enabling them to mechanosense more deeply into underlying materials than single cells. To test this, we modulated the thickness of soft (1 kPa) elastic extracellular-matrix-functionalized polyacrylamide hydrogels adhered to glass substrates and allowed colonies of MG63 cells to form on their surfaces. Cell morphology and deformations of fluorescent fiducial-marker-labeled hydrogels were quantified by time-lapse fluorescence microscopy imaging. Single-cell spreading increased with respect to decreasing hydrogel thickness, with data fitting to an exponential model with half-maximal response at a thickness of 3.2 ?m. By quantifying cell area within colonies of defined area, we similarly found that colony-cell spreading increased with decreasing hydrogel thickness but with a greater half-maximal response at 54 ?m. Depth-sensing was dependent on Rho-associated protein kinase-mediated cellular contractility. Surface hydrogel deformations were significantly greater on thick hydrogels compared to thin hydrogels. In addition, deformations extended greater distances from the periphery of colonies on thick hydrogels compared to thin hydrogels. Our data suggest that by acting collectively, cells mechanosense rigid materials beneath elastic hydrogels at greater depths than individual cells. This raises the possibility that the collective action of cells in colonies or sheets may allow cells to sense structures of differing material properties at comparatively large distances.