X-ray Phase Contrast Allows Three Dimensional, Quantitative Imaging of Hydrogel Implants.
ABSTRACT: Three dimensional imaging techniques are needed for the evaluation and assessment of biomaterials used for tissue engineering and drug delivery applications. Hydrogels are a particularly popular class of materials for medical applications but are difficult to image in tissue using most available imaging modalities. Imaging techniques based on X-ray Phase Contrast (XPC) have shown promise for tissue engineering applications due to their ability to provide image contrast based on multiple X-ray properties. In this manuscript, we investigate the use of XPC for imaging a model hydrogel and soft tissue structure. Porous fibrin loaded poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogels were synthesized and implanted in a rodent subcutaneous model. Samples were explanted and imaged with an analyzer-based XPC technique and processed and stained for histology for comparison. Both hydrogel and soft tissues structures could be identified in XPC images. Structure in skeletal muscle adjacent could be visualized and invading fibrovascular tissue could be quantified. There were no differences between invading tissue measurements from XPC and the gold-standard histology. These results provide evidence of the significant potential of techniques based on XPC for 3D imaging of hydrogel structure and local tissue response.
Project description:Transplantation of functional islets encapsulated in stable biomaterials has the potential to cure Type I diabetes. However, the success of these materials requires the ability to quantitatively evaluate their stability. Imaging techniques that enable monitoring of biomaterial performance are critical to further development in the field. X-ray phase-contrast (XPC) imaging is an emerging class of X-ray techniques that have shown significant promise for imaging biomaterial and soft tissue structures. In this study, XPC imaging techniques are shown to enable three dimensional (3D) imaging and evaluation of islet volume, alginate hydrogel structure, and local soft tissue features ex vivo. Rat islets were encapsulated in sterile ultrapurified alginate systems produced using a high-throughput microfluidic system. The encapsulated islets were implanted in omentum pouches created in a rodent model of type 1 diabetes. Microbeads were imaged with XPC imaging before implantation and as whole tissue samples after explantation from the animals. XPC microcomputed tomography (?CT) was performed with systems using tube-based and synchrotron X-ray sources. Islets could be identified within alginate beads and the islet volume was quantified in the synchrotron-based ?CT volumes. Omental adipose tissue could be distinguished from inflammatory regions resulting from implanted beads in harvested samples with both XPC imaging techniques. Individual beads and the local encapsulation response were observed and quantified using quantitative measurements, which showed good agreement with histology. The 3D structure of the microbeads could be characterized with XPC imaging and failed beads could also be identified. These results point to the substantial potential of XPC imaging as a tool for imaging biomaterials in small animal models and deliver a critical step toward in vivo imaging.
Project description:Alginate hydrogels are cross-linked polymers with high water content, tuneable chemical and material properties, and a range of biomedical applications including drug delivery, tissue engineering, and cell therapy. However, their similarity to soft tissue often renders them undetectable within the body using conventional bio-medical imaging techniques. This leaves much unknown about their behaviour in vivo, posing a challenge to therapy development and validation. To address this, we report a novel, fast, and simple method of incorporating the nuclear imaging radio-metal <sup>111</sup>In into the structure of alginate hydrogels by utilising its previously-undescribed capacity as an ionic cross-linking agent. This enabled non-invasive in vivo nuclear imaging of hydrogel delivery and retention across the whole body, over time, and across a range of model therapies including: nasal and oral drug delivery, stem cell transplantation, and cardiac tissue engineering. This information will facilitate the development of novel therapeutic hydrogel formulations, encompassing alginate, across disease categories.
Project description:Recent decades have seen intense developments of hydrogel applications for cell cultures, tissue engineering, soft robotics, and ionic devices. Advanced fabrication techniques for hydrogel structures are being developed to meet user-specified requirements. Existing hydrogel 3D printing techniques place substantial constraints on the physical and chemical properties of hydrogel precursors as well as the printed hydrogel structures. This study proposes a novel method for patterning liquids with a resolution of 100 μm by using the capacitor edge effect. We establish a complete hydrogel 3D printing system combining the patterning and stacking processes. This technique is applicable to a wide variety of hydrogels, overcoming the limitations of existing techniques. We demonstrate printed hydrogel structures including a hydrogel scaffold, a hydrogel composite that responds sensitively to temperature, and an ionic high-integrity hydrogel display device. The proposed technique offers great opportunities in rapid prototyping hydrogel devices using multiple compositions and complex geometries.
Project description:Inspired by mammalian skins, soft hybrids integrating the merits of elastomers and hydrogels have potential applications in diverse areas including stretchable and bio-integrated electronics, microfluidics, tissue engineering, soft robotics and biomedical devices. However, existing hydrogel-elastomer hybrids have limitations such as weak interfacial bonding, low robustness and difficulties in patterning microstructures. Here, we report a simple yet versatile method to assemble hydrogels and elastomers into hybrids with extremely robust interfaces (interfacial toughness over 1,000?Jm(-2)) and functional microstructures such as microfluidic channels and electrical circuits. The proposed method is generally applicable to various types of tough hydrogels and diverse commonly used elastomers including polydimethylsiloxane Sylgard 184, polyurethane, latex, VHB and Ecoflex. We further demonstrate applications enabled by the robust and microstructured hydrogel-elastomer hybrids including anti-dehydration hydrogel-elastomer hybrids, stretchable and reactive hydrogel-elastomer microfluidics, and stretchable hydrogel circuit boards patterned on elastomer.
Project description:Oligopeptide-based supramolecular hydrogels hold promise in a range of applications. The gelation of these systems is hard to control, with minor alterations in the peptide sequence significantly influencing the self-assembly process. We explored three pentapeptide sequences with different charge distributions and discovered that they formed robust, pH-responsive hydrogels. By altering the concentration and charge distribution of the peptide sequence, the stiffness of the hydrogels could be tuned across two orders of magnitude (2-200?kPa). Also, through reassembly of the ?-sheet interactions the hydrogels could self-heal and they demonstrated shear-thin behavior. Using spectroscopic and cryo-imaging techniques, we investigated the relationship between peptide sequence and molecular structure, and how these influence the mechanical properties of the hydrogel. These pentapeptide hydrogels with tunable morphology and mechanical properties have promise in tissue engineering, injectable delivery vectors, and 3D printing applications.
Project description:Biodegradable injectable hydrogels have been extensively studied and evaluated in various medical applications such as for bulking agents, drug delivery reservoirs, temporary barriers, adhesives, and cell delivery matrices. Where injectable hydrogels are intended to facilitate a healing response, it may be desirable to encourage rapid cellular infiltration into the hydrogel volume from the tissue surrounding the injection site. In this study, we developed a platform technique to rapidly form pores in a thermally responsive injectable hydrogel, poly(NIPAAm-co-VP-co-MAPLA) by using mannitol particles as porogens. In a rat hindlimb muscle injection model, hydrogels incorporating porosity had significantly accelerated cellular infiltration. To influence the inflammatory response to the injected hydrogel, enzymatically digested urinary bladder matrix (UBM) was mixed with the solubilized hydrogel. The presence of UBM was associated with greater polarization of the recruited macrophage population to the M2 phenotype, indicating a more constructive foreign body response. The hybrid hydrogel positively affected the wound healing outcomes of defects in rabbit adipose tissue with negligible inflammation and fibrosis, whereas scar formation and chronic inflammation were observed with autotransplantation and in saline injected groups. These results demonstrate the value of combining the effects of promoting cell infiltration and mediating the foreign body response for improved biomaterials options soft tissue defect filling applications. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE:Our objective was to develop a fabrication process to create porous injectable hydrogels incorporating decellularized tissue digest material. This new hydrogel material was expected to exhibit faster cellular infiltration and a greater extent of pro-M2 macrophage polarization compared to control groups not incorporating each of the functional components. Poly(NIPAAm-co-VP-co-MAPLA) was chosen as the representative thermoresponsive hydrogel, and mannitol particles and digested urinary bladder matrix (UBM) were selected as the porogen and the bioactive decellularized material components respectively. In rat hindlimb intramuscular injection models, this new hydrogel material induced more rapid cellular infiltration and a greater extent of M2 macrophage polarization compared to control groups not incorporating all of the functional components. The hybrid hydrogel positively affected the wound healing outcomes of defects in rabbit adipose tissue with negligible inflammation and fibrosis, whereas scar formation and chronic inflammation were observed with autotransplantation and in saline injected groups. The methodology of this report provides a straightforward and convenient mechanism to promote cell infiltration and mediate foreign body response in injectable hydrogels for soft tissue applications. We believe that the readership of Acta Biomaterialia will find the work of interest both for its specific results and general translatability of the findings.
Project description:There is a critical need for biomaterials that support robust neovascularization for a wide-range of clinical applications. Here we report how cells alter tissue-level mechanical properties during capillary morphogenesis using a model of endothelial-stromal cell co-culture within poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) based hydrogels. After a week of culture, we observed substantial stiffening in hydrogels with very soft initial properties. Endothelial cells or stromal cells alone, however, failed to induce hydrogel stiffening. This stiffening tightly correlated with degree of vessel formation but not with hydrogel compaction or cellular proliferation. Despite a lack of fibrillar architecture within the PEG hydrogels, cell-generated contractile forces were essential for hydrogel stiffening. Upregulation of alpha smooth muscle actin and collagen-1 was also correlated with enhanced vessel formation and hydrogel stiffening. Blocking cell-mediated hydrogel degradation abolished stiffening, demonstrating that matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-mediated remodeling is required for stiffening to occur. These results highlight the dynamic reciprocity between cells and their mechanical microenvironment during capillary morphogenesis and provide important insights for the rational design of materials for vasculogenic applications.
Project description:Hydrogels commonly used in tissue engineering are mechanically soft, thus often display structural weakness. Herein, we introduce a strategy for enhancing the structural integrity and fracture toughness of cell-laden hydrogels by incorporating a three-dimensional (3D) microfabricated scaffold as a structural element. A digital micromirror device projection printing (DMD-PP) system, a rapid prototyping technology which employs a layer-by-layer stereolithographic approach, was utilized to efficiently fabricate 3D scaffolds made from photocrosslinkable poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA). The scaffold was incorporated into a photocrosslinkable gelatin hydrogel by placing it in a pre-gel solution, and inducing in situ hydrogel formation. The resulting scaffold-reinforced hydrogels demonstrated significant increase in ultimate stress and provided structural support for weak hydrogels. In addition, the scaffold did not affect the rigidity of hydrogels, as it was not involved in the crosslinking reaction to form the hydrogel. Therefore, the presented approach could avoid inadvertent and undesired changes in the hydrogel rigidity which is a known regulator of cellular activities. Furthermore, the biocompatibility of scaffold-reinforced hydrogels was confirmed by evaluating the viability and proliferation of encapsulated fibroblasts. Overall, the strategy of incorporating 3D scaffolds into hydrogels as structural reinforcements presented in this study will be highly useful for enhancing the mechanical toughness of hydrogels for various tissue engineering applications.
Project description:Self-assembled biomaterials are an important class of materials that can be injected and formed in situ. However, they often are not able to meet the mechanical properties necessary for many biological applications, losing mechanical properties at low strains. We synthesized hybrid hydrogels consisting of a poly(?-glutamic acid) polymer network physically cross-linked via grafted self-assembling ?-sheet peptides to provide non-covalent cross-linking through ?-sheet assembly, reinforced with a polymer backbone to improve strain stability. By altering the ?-sheet peptide graft density and concentration, we can tailor the mechanical properties of the hydrogels over an order of magnitude range of 10-200 kPa, which is in the region of many soft tissues. Also, due to the ability of the non-covalent ?-sheet cross-links to reassemble, the hydrogels can self-heal after being strained to failure, in most cases recovering all of their original storage moduli. Using a combination of spectroscopic techniques, we were able to probe the secondary structure of the materials and verify the presence of ?-sheets within the hybrid hydrogels. Since the polymer backbone requires less than a 15% functionalization of its repeating units with ?-sheet peptides to form a hydrogel, it can easily be modified further to incorporate specific biological epitopes. This self-healing polymer-?-sheet peptide hybrid hydrogel with tailorable mechanical properties is a promising platform for future tissue-engineering scaffolds and biomedical applications.
Project description:The design of materials that can mimic the complex yet fast actuation phenomena in nature is important but challenging. Herein, we present a new paradigm for designing responsive hydrogel sheets that can exhibit ultrafast inverse snapping deformation. Dual-gradient structures of hydrogel sheets enable the accumulation of elastic energy in hydrogels by converting prestored energy and rapid reverse snapping (<1 s) to release the energy. By controlling the magnitude and location of energy prestored within the hydrogels, the snapping of hydrogel sheets can be programmed to achieve different structures and actuation behaviors. We have developed theoretical model to elucidate the crucial role of dual gradients and predict the snapping motion of various hydrogel materials. This new design principle provides guidance for fabricating actuation materials with applications in tissue engineering, soft robotics, and active medical implants.