Mechanochemical Adhesion and Plasticity in Multifiber Hydrogel Networks.
ABSTRACT: The extracellular matrix (ECM) has force-responsive (i.e., mechanochemical) properties that enable adaptation to mechanical loading through changes in fibrous network structure and interfiber bonding. Imparting such properties into synthetic fibrous materials will allow reinforcement under mechanical load, the potential for material self-adhesion, and the general mimicking of ECM. Multifiber hydrogel networks are developed through the electrospinning of multiple fibrous hydrogel populations, where fibers contain complementary chemical moieties (e.g., aldehyde and hydrazide groups) that form covalent bonds within minutes when brought into contact under mechanical load. These fiber interactions lead to microscale anisotropy, as well as increased material stiffness and plastic deformation. Macroscale structures (e.g., tubes and layered scaffolds) are fabricated from these materials through interfiber bonding and adhesion when placed into contact while maintaining a microscale fibrous architecture. The design principles for engineering plasticity described can be applied to numerous material systems to introduce unique properties, from textiles to biomedical applications.
Project description:The mechanical and structural properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM) play an important role in regulating cell fate. The natural ECM has a complex fibrillar structure and shows nonlinear mechanical properties, which are both difficult to mimic synthetically. Therefore, systematically testing the influence of ECM properties on cellular behavior is very challenging. In this work we show two different approaches to tune the fibrillar structure and mechanical properties of fibrin hydrogels. Addition of extra thrombin before gelation increases the protein density within the fibrin fibers without significantly altering the mechanical properties of the resulting hydrogel. On the other hand, by forming a composite hydrogel with a synthetic biomimetic polyisocyanide network the protein density within the fibrin fibers decreases, and the mechanics of the composite material can be tuned by the PIC/fibrin mass ratio. The effect of the changes in gel structure and mechanics on cellular behavior are investigated, by studying human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) spreading and differentiation on these gels. We find that the trends observed in cell spreading and differentiation cannot be explained by the bulk mechanics of the gels, but correlate to the density of the fibrin fibers the gels are composed of. These findings strongly suggest that the microscopic properties of individual fibers in fibrous networks play an essential role in determining cell behavior.
Project description:Mechanical interactions between fibroblasts and their surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM) guide fundamental behaviors such as spreading, migration, and proliferation that underlie disease pathogenesis. The challenges of studying ECM mechanics in vivo have motivated the development of in vitro models of the fibrous ECM in which fibroblasts reside. Natural materials such as collagen hydrogels bear structural and biochemical resemblance to stromal ECM, but mechanistic studies in these settings are often confounded by cell-mediated material degradation and the lack of structural and mechanical tunability. Here, we established a new material system composed of electrospun dextran vinyl sulfone (DexVS) polymeric fibers. These fibrous matrices exhibit mechanical tunability at both the single fiber (80-340 MPa) and bulk matrix (0.77-11.03 kPa) level, as well as long-term stability in mechanical properties over a two-week period. Cell adhesion to these matrices can be either user-defined by functionalizing synthetic fibers with thiolated adhesive peptides or methacrylated heparin to sequester cell-derived ECM proteins. We utilized DexVS fibrous matrices to investigate the role of matrix mechanics on the activation of fibroblasts into myofibroblasts, a key step of the fibrotic progression. In contrast to previous findings with non-fibrous hydrogel substrates, we find that fibroblasts in soft and deformable matrices exhibit increased spreading, focal adhesion formation, proliferation, and myofibroblast activation as compared to cells on stiffer matrices with equivalent starting architecture. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Cellular mechanosensing of fibrillar extracellular matrices plays a critical role in homeostasis and disease progression in stromal connective tissue. Here, we established a new material system composed of electrospun dextran vinyl sulfone polymeric fibers. These matrices exhibit architectural, mechanical, and biochemical tunability to accurately model diverse tissue microenvironments found in the body. In contrast to previous observations with non-fibrous hydrogels, we find that fibroblasts in soft and deformable fibrous matrices exhibit increased spreading and focal adhesion formation as compared to those in stiffer matrices with equivalent architecture. We also investigated the role of matrix stiffness on myofibroblast activation, a critical step in the fibrotic cascade, and find that low stiffness matrices promote increased myofibroblast activation.
Project description:Hydrogels that mimic biological extracellular matrix (ECM) can provide cells with mechanical support and signaling cues to regulate their behavior. However, despite the ability of hydrogels to generate artificial ECM that can modulate cellular behavior, they often lack the mechanical strength needed for many tissue constructs. Here, we present reinforced CNT-gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) hybrid as a biocompatible, cell-responsive hydrogel platform for creating cell-laden three-dimensional (3D) constructs. The addition of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) successfully reinforced GelMA hydrogels without decreasing their porosity or inhibiting cell growth. The CNT-GelMA hybrids were also photopatternable allowing for easy fabrication of microscale structures without harsh processes. NIH-3T3 cells and human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) readily spread and proliferated after encapsulation in CNT-GelMA hybrid microgels. By controlling the amount of CNTs incorporated into the GelMA hydrogel system, we demonstrated that the mechanical properties of the hybrid material can be tuned making it suitable for various tissue engineering applications. Furthermore, due to the high pattern fidelity and resolution of CNT incorporated GelMA, it can be used for in vitro cell studies or fabricating complex 3D biomimetic tissue-like structures.
Project description:Transcatheter embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that uses embolic agents to intentionally block diseased or injured blood vessels for therapeutic purposes. Embolic agents in clinical practice are limited by recanalization, risk of non-target embolization, failure in coagulopathic patients, high cost, and toxicity. Here, a decellularized cardiac extracellular matrix (ECM)-based nanocomposite hydrogel is developed to provide superior mechanical stability, catheter injectability, retrievability, antibacterial properties, and biological activity to prevent recanalization. The embolic efficacy of the shear-thinning ECM-based hydrogel is shown in a porcine survival model of embolization in the iliac artery and the renal artery. The ECM-based hydrogel promotes arterial vessel wall remodeling and a fibroinflammatory response while undergoing significant biodegradation such that only 25% of the embolic material remains at 14 days. With its unprecedented proregenerative, antibacterial properties coupled with favorable mechanical properties, and its superior performance in anticoagulated blood, the ECM-based hydrogel has the potential to be a next-generation biofunctional embolic agent that can successfully treat a wide range of vascular diseases.
Project description:Low-porosity materials based on hot-pressed wood fibers or nanocellulose fibrils (no polymer matrix) represent a new concept for eco-friendly materials with interesting mechanical properties. For the replacement of fossil-based materials, physical properties of wood fiber materials need to be improved. In addition, the carbon footprint and cumulative energy required to produce the material also needs to be reduced compared with fossil-based composites, e.g., glass fiber composites. Lignin-containing fibers and nanofibers are of high yield and special interest for development of more sustainable materials technologies. The present mini-review provides a short analysis of the potential. Different extraction routes of lignin-containing wood fibers are discussed, different processing methods, and the properties of resulting fiber materials. Comparisons are made with analogous lignin-containing nanofiber materials, where mechanical properties and eco-indicators are emphasized. Higher lignin content may promote eco-friendly attributes and improve interfiber or interfibril bonding in fiber materials, for improved mechanical performance.
Project description:Characterization of the microscale mechanical properties of biomaterials is a key challenge in the field of mechanobiology. Dual-mode ultrasound elastography (DUE) uses high frequency focused ultrasound to induce compression in a sample, combined with interleaved ultrasound imaging to measure the resulting deformation. This technique can be used to non-invasively perform creep testing on hydrogel biomaterials to characterize their viscoelastic properties. DUE was applied to a range of hydrogel constructs consisting of either hydroxyapatite (HA)-doped agarose, HA-collagen, HA-fibrin, or preosteoblast-seeded collagen constructs. DUE provided spatial and temporal mapping of local and bulk displacements and strains at high resolution. Hydrogel materials exhibited characteristic creep behavior, and the maximum strain and residual strain were both material- and concentration-dependent. Burger's viscoelastic model was used to extract characteristic parameters describing material behavior. Increased protein concentration resulted in greater stiffness and viscosity, but did not affect the viscoelastic time constant of acellular constructs. Collagen constructs exhibited significantly higher modulus and viscosity than fibrin constructs. Cell-seeded collagen constructs became stiffer with altered mechanical behavior as they developed over time. Importantly, DUE also provides insight into the spatial variation of viscoelastic properties at sub-millimeter resolution, allowing interrogation of the interior of constructs. DUE presents a novel technique for non-invasively characterizing hydrogel materials at the microscale, and therefore may have unique utility in the study of mechanobiology and the characterization of hydrogel biomaterials.
Project description:We report on the synthesis and the mechanical characterization of an alginate-collagen fibril composite hydrogel. Native type I collagen fibrils were used to synthesize the fibrous composite hydrogel. We characterized the mechanical properties of the fabricated fibrous hydrogel using tensile testing; rheometry and atomic force microscope (AFM)-based nanoindentation experiments. The results show that addition of type I collagen fibrils improves the rheological and indentation properties of the hydrogel.
Project description:The ECM of mammalian tissues has been used as a scaffold to facilitate the repair and reconstruction of numerous tissues. Such scaffolds are prepared in many forms including sheets, powders, and hydrogels. ECM hydrogels provide advantages such as injectability, the ability to fill an irregularly shaped space, and the inherent bioactivity of native matrix. However, material properties of ECM hydrogels and the effect of these properties upon cell behavior are neither well understood nor controlled. The objective of this study was to prepare and determine the structure, mechanics, and the cell response in vitro and in vivo of ECM hydrogels prepared from decellularized porcine dermis and urinary bladder tissues. Dermal ECM hydrogels were characterized by a more dense fiber architecture and greater mechanical integrity than urinary bladder ECM hydrogels, and showed a dose dependent increase in mechanical properties with ECM concentration. In vitro, dermal ECM hydrogels supported greater C2C12 myoblast fusion, and less fibroblast infiltration and less fibroblast mediated hydrogel contraction than urinary bladder ECM hydrogels. Both hydrogels were rapidly infiltrated by host cells, primarily macrophages, when implanted in a rat abdominal wall defect. Both ECM hydrogels degraded by 35 days in vivo, but UBM hydrogels degraded more quickly, and with greater amounts of myogenesis than dermal ECM. These results show that ECM hydrogel properties can be varied and partially controlled by the scaffold tissue source, and that these properties can markedly affect cell behavior.
Project description:Mechanical interactions between cells and their surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM) guide many fundamental cell behaviors. Native connective tissue consists of highly organized, 3D networks of ECM fibers with complex, nonlinear mechanical properties. The most abundant stromal matrix component is fibrillar type I collagen, which often possesses a wavy, crimped morphology that confers strain- and load-dependent nonlinear mechanical behavior. Here, we established a new and simple method for engineering electrospun fibrous matrices composed of dextran vinyl sulfone (DexVS) with controllable crimped structure. A hydrophilic peptide was functionalized to DexVS matrices to trigger swelling of individual hydrogel fibers, resulting in crimped microstructure due to the fixed anchorage of fibers. Mechanical characterization of these matrices under tension confirmed orthogonal control over nonlinear stress-strain responses and matrix stiffness. We next examined ECM mechanosensing of individual endothelial cells (ECs) and found that fiber crimp promoted physical matrix remodeling alongside decreases in cell spreading, focal adhesion area, and nuclear localization of Yes-associated protein (YAP). These changes corresponded to an increase in migration speed, along with evidence for long-range interactions between neighboring cells in crimped matrices. Interestingly, when ECs were seeded at high density in crimped matrices, capillary-like networks rapidly assembled and contained tube-like cellular structures wrapped around bundles of synthetic matrix fibers due to increased physical reorganization of matrix fibers. Our work provides an additional level of mechanical and architectural tunability to synthetic fibrous matrices and implicates a critical role for mechanical nonlinearity in EC mechanosensing and network formation.
Project description:Artificial 3-dimensional (3D) cell culture systems, which mimic the extracellular matrix (ECM), hold great potential as models to study cellular processes under controlled conditions. The natural ECM is a 3D structure composed of a fibrous hydrogel that provides both mechanical and biochemical cues to instruct cell behavior. Here we present an ECM-mimicking genetically engineered protein-based hydrogel as a 3D cell culture system that combines several key features: (1) Mild and straightforward encapsulation meters (1) ease of ut I am not so sure.encapsulation of the cells, without the need of an external crosslinker. (2) Supramolecular assembly resulting in a fibrous architecture that recapitulates some of the unique mechanical characteristics of the ECM, i.e. strain-stiffening and self-healing behavior. (3) A modular approach allowing controlled incorporation of the biochemical cue density (integrin binding RGD domains). We tested the gels by encapsulating MG-63 osteoblastic cells and found that encapsulated cells not only respond to higher RGD density, but also to overall gel concentration. Cells in 1% and 2% (weight fraction) protein gels showed spreading and proliferation, provided a relative RGD density of at least 50%. In contrast, in 4% gels very little spreading and proliferation occurred, even for a relative RGD density of 100%. The independent control over both mechanical and biochemical cues obtained in this modular approach renders our hydrogels suitable to study cellular responses under highly defined conditions.