A simple layer-stacking technique to generate biomolecular and mechanical gradients in photocrosslinkable hydrogels.
ABSTRACT: Physicochemical and biological gradients are desirable features for hydrogels to enhance their relevance to biological environments for three-dimensional (3D) cell culture. Therefore, simple and efficient techniques to generate chemical, physical and biological gradients within hydrogels are highly desirable. This work demonstrates a technique to generate biomolecular and mechanical gradients in photocrosslinkable hydrogels by stacking and crosslinking prehydrogel solution in a layer by layer manner. Partial crosslinking of the hydrogel allows mixing of prehydrogel solution with the previous hydrogel layer, which makes a smooth gradient profile, rather than discrete layers. This technique enables the generation of concentration gradients of bovine serum albumin in both gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA) and poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate hydrogels, as well as mechanical gradients across a hydrogel containing varying gel concentrations. Fluorescence microscopy, mechanical testing, and scanning electron microscopy show that the gradient profiles can be controlled by changing both the volume and concentration of each layer as well as intensity of UV exposure. GelMA hydrogel gradients with different Young's moduli were successfully used to culture human fibroblasts. The fibroblasts migrated along the gradient axis and showed different morphologies. In general, the proposed technique provides a rapid and simple approach to design and fabricate 3D hydrogel gradients for in vitro biological studies and potentially for in vivo tissue engineering applications.
Project description:Biomacromolecules with poor mechanical properties cannot satisfy the stringent requirement for load-bearing as bioscaffolds. Herein, a biodegradable high-strength supramolecular polymer strengthened hydrogel composed of cleavable poly(<i>N</i>-acryloyl 2-glycine) (PACG) and methacrylated gelatin (GelMA) (PACG-GelMA) is successfully constructed by photo-initiated polymerization. Introducing hydrogen bond-strengthened PACG contributes to a significant increase in the mechanical strengths of gelatin hydrogel with a high tensile strength (up to 1.1 MPa), outstanding compressive strength (up to 12.4 MPa), large Young's modulus (up to 320 kPa), and high compression modulus (up to 837 kPa). In turn, the GelMA chemical crosslinking could stabilize the temporary PACG network, showing tunable biodegradability by adjusting ACG/GelMA ratios. Further, a biohybrid gradient scaffold consisting of top layer of PACG-GelMA hydrogel-Mn<sup>2+</sup> and bottom layer of PACG-GelMA hydrogel-bioactive glass is fabricated for repair of osteochondral defects by a 3D printing technique. In vitro biological experiments demonstrate that the biohybrid gradient hydrogel scaffold not only supports cell attachment and spreading but also enhances gene expression of chondrogenic-related and osteogenic-related differentiation of human bone marrow stem cells. Around 12 weeks after in vivo implantation, the biohybrid gradient hydrogel scaffold significantly facilitates concurrent regeneration of cartilage and subchondral bone in a rat model.
Project description:Gradient biomaterials are considered as preferable matrices for tissue engineering due to better simulation of native tissues. The introduction of gradient cues usually needs special equipment and complex process but is only effective to limited biomaterials. Incorporation of multiple gradients in the hydrogels remains challenges. Here, beta-sheet rich silk nanofibers (BSNF) were used as building blocks to introduce multiple gradients into different hydrogel systems through the joint action of crosslinking and electric field. The blocks migrated to the anode along the electric field and gradually stagnated due to the solution-hydrogel transition of the systems, finally achieving gradient distribution of the blocks in the formed hydrogels. The gradient distribution of the blocks could be tuned easily through changing different factors such as solution viscosity, which resulted in highly tunable gradient of mechanical cues. The blocks were also aligned under the electric field, endowing orientation gradient simultaneously. Different cargos could be loaded on the blocks and form gradient cues through the same crosslinking-electric field strategy. The building blocks could be introduced to various hydrogels such as Gelatin and NIPAM, indicating the universality. Complex niches with multiple gradient cues could be achieved through the strategy. Silk-based hydrogels with suitable mechanical gradients were fabricated to control the osteogenesis and chondrogenesis. Chondrogenic-osteogenic gradient transition was obtained, which stimulated the ectopic osteochondral tissue regeneration in vivo. The versatility and highly controllability of the strategy as well as multifunction of the building blocks reveal the applicability in complex tissue engineering and various interfacial tissues.
Project description:Methacrylated gelatin (GelMA)/bacterial cellulose (BC) composite hydrogels have been successfully prepared by immersing BC particles in GelMA solution followed by photo-crosslinking. The morphology of GelMA/BC hydrogel was examined by scanning electron microscopy and compared with pure GelMA. The hydrogels had very well interconnected porous network structure, and the pore size decreased from 200 to 10?µm with the increase of BC content. The composite hydrogels were also characterized by swelling experiment, X-ray diffraction, thermogravimetric analysis, rheology experiment and compressive test. The composite hydrogels showed significantly improved mechanical properties compared with pure GelMA. In addition, the biocompatility of composite hydrogels were preliminarily evaluated using human articular chondrocytes. The cells encapsulated within the composite hydrogels for 7?days proliferated and maintained the chondrocytic phenotype. Thus, the GelMA/BC composite hydrogels might be useful for cartilage tissue engineering.
Project description:<b>Objective:</b> To fabricate and investigate the properties of fibroin and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) hydrogels containing sericin prepared using high-pressure carbon dioxide (CO<sub>2</sub>). <b>Approach:</b> In this study, fibroin/PVA hydrogels with and without sericin were prepared using the high-pressure CO<sub>2</sub> method. The physical and mechanical properties of the hydrogels were investigated using field-emission scanning electron microscopy, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, thermogravimetric analysis, and differential scanning calorimetry, and the swelling, water retention, and compressive properties were assessed. <b>Results:</b> The hydrogels obtained from the combination of fibroin and PVA presented a compositional gradient along the hydrogel thickness and structure. The upper layer of the hydrogel consisted of a fibroin-based hydrogel blended with PVA, whereas the lower layer contained only fibroin. The mechanical properties regarding compression of the fibroin/PVA hydrogel were significantly better than those of the pure fibroin hydrogel, for hydrogels with and without sericin. Moreover, the mechanical properties of the hydrogels with sericin were significantly better than those without sericin. The water contents of all samples were >90%. <b>Innovation:</b> This study assessed a new combination of a wound healing agent and a biomaterial dressing. Moreover, this hydrogel production technique used a clean method without the need for a chemical crosslinking agent. <b>Conclusion:</b> The combination of the fibroin and PVA hydrogel and sericin prepared using the high-pressure CO<sub>2</sub> method led to good physical properties. This material may be a candidate for medical applications.
Project description:Biomaterials currently used in cardiac tissue engineering have certain limitations, such as lack of electrical conductivity and appropriate mechanical properties, which are two parameters playing a key role in regulating cardiac cell behavior. Here, the myocardial tissue constructs are engineered based on reduced graphene oxide (rGO)-incorporated gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA) hybrid hydrogels. The incorporation of rGO into the GelMA matrix significantly enhances the electrical conductivity and mechanical properties of the material. Moreover, cells cultured on composite rGO-GelMA scaffolds exhibit better biological activities such as cell viability, proliferation, and maturation compared to ones cultured on GelMA hydrogels. Cardiomyocytes show stronger contractility and faster spontaneous beating rate on rGO-GelMA hydrogel sheets compared to those on pristine GelMA hydrogels, as well as GO-GelMA hydrogel sheets with similar mechanical property and particle concentration. Our strategy of integrating rGO within a biocompatible hydrogel is expected to be broadly applicable for future biomaterial designs to improve tissue engineering outcomes. The engineered cardiac tissue constructs using rGO incorporated hybrid hydrogels can potentially provide high-fidelity tissue models for drug studies and the investigations of cardiac tissue development and/or disease processes in vitro.
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:Photopolymerized hydrogels, such as gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA), have desirable biological and mechanical characteristics for a range of tissue engineering applications. OBJECTIVE:This study aimed to optimize a new method to photopolymerize GelMA using a dental curing light (DL). METHODS:Lithium acylphosphinate photo-initiator (LAP, 0.05, 0.067, 0.1% w/v) was evaluated for its ability to polymerize GelMA hydrogel precursors (10% w/v) encapsulated with odontoblast-like cells (OD21). Different irradiances (1650, 2300 and 3700mW/cm2) and photo-curing times (5-20s) were tested, and compared against the parameters typically used in UV light photopolymerization (45mW/cm2, 0.1% w/v Irgacure 2959 as photoinitiator). Physical and mechanical properties of the photopolymerized GelMA hydrogels were determined. Cell viability was assessed using a live and dead assay kit. RESULTS:Comparing DL and UV polymerization methods, the DL method photopolymerized GelMA precursor faster and presented larger pore size than the UV polymerization method. The live and dead assay showed more than 80% of cells were viable when hydrogels were photopolymerized with the different DL irradiances. However, the cell viability decreased when the exposure time was increased to 20s using the 1650mW/cm2 intensity, and when the LAP concentration was increased from 0.05 to 0.1%. Both DL and UV photocrosslinked hydrogels supported a high percentage of cell viability and enabled fabrication of micropatterns using a photolithography microfabrication technique. SIGNIFICANCE:The proposed method to photopolymerize GelMA cell-laden hydrogels using a dental curing light is effective and represents an important step towards the establishment of chair-side procedures in regenerative dentistry.
Project description:We report the development of an efficient, customized spherical indentation-based testing method to systematically estimate the hydraulic permeability of gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA) hydrogels fabricated in a wide range of mass concentrations and photocrosslinking conditions. Numerical simulations and Biot's theory of poroelasticity were implemented to calibrate our experimental data. We correlated elastic moduli and permeability coefficients with different GelMA concentrations and crosslinking densities. Our model could also predict drug release rates from the GelMA hydrogels and diffusion of biomolecules into the three-dimensional GelMA hydrogels. The results potentially provide a design map for choosing desired GelMA-based hydrogels for use in drug delivery, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine, which may be further expanded to predicting the permeability behaviors of various other hydrogel types. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE:GelMA hydrogels have attracted increasing attention in recent years as matrices for cell cultures and biomolecule delivery. This inexpensive polymer is derived from gelatin functionalized with methacryloyl groups that can be crosslinked by photochemical reactions. Here we report the development of an efficient, customized testing method to systematically estimate the hydraulic permeability of GelMA hydrogels. Hydraulic permeability indicates the resistance of GelMA hydrogels to the movement of saturated fluid. We used the model to measure the elastic moduli and permeability coefficients, providing a permeability map for various GelMA hydrogel formulations.
Project description:Gelatin-methacryloyl (GelMA) is a semi-synthetic hydrogel which consists of gelatin derivatized with methacrylamide and methacrylate groups. These hydrogels provide cells with an optimal biological environment (e.g., RGD motifs for adhesion) and can be quickly photo-crosslinked, which provides shape fidelity and stability at physiological temperature. In the present work, we demonstrated how GelMA hydrogels can be synthesized with a specific degree of functionalization (DoF) and adjusted to the intended application as a three-dimensional (3D) cell culture platform. The focus of this work lays on producing hydrogel scaffolds which provide a cell promoting microenvironment for human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hAD-MSCs) and are conductive to their adhesion, spreading, and proliferation. The control of mechanical GelMA properties by variation of concentration, DoF, and ultraviolet (UV) polymerization conditions is described. Moreover, hAD-MSC cell viability and morphology in GelMA of different stiffness was evaluated and compared. Polymerized hydrogels with and without cells could be digested in order to release encapsulated cells without loss of viability. We also demonstrated how hydrogel viscosity can be increased by the use of biocompatible additives, in order to enable the extrusion bioprinting of these materials. Taken together, we demonstrated how GelMA hydrogels can be used as a versatile tool for 3D cell cultivation.
Project description:Composite hydrogels have gained great attention as three-dimensional (3D) printing biomaterials because of their enhanced intrinsic mechanical strength and bioactivity compared to pure hydrogels. In most conventional printing methods for composite hydrogels, particles are preloaded in ink before printing, which often reduces the printability of composite ink with little mechanical improvement due to poor particle-hydrogel interaction of physical mixing. In contrast, the in situ incorporation of nanoparticles into a hydrogel during 3D printing achieves uniform distribution of particles with remarkable mechanical reinforcement, while precursors dissolved in inks do not influence the printing process. Herein, we introduced a "printing in liquid" technique coupled with a hybridization process, which allows 3D freeform printing of nanoparticle-reinforced composite hydrogels. A viscoplastic matrix for this printing system provides not only support for printed hydrogel filaments but also chemical reactants to induce various reactions in printed objects for in situ modification. Nanocomposite hydrogel scaffolds were successfully fabricated through this 3D freeform printing of hyaluronic acid (HAc)-alginate (Alg) hydrogel inks through a two-step crosslinking strategy. The first ionic crosslinking of Alg provided structural stability during printing, while the secondary crosslinking of photo-curable HAc improved the mechanical and physiological stability of the nanocomposite hydrogels. For in situ precipitation during 3D printing, phosphate ions were dissolved in the hydrogel ink and calcium ions were added to the viscoplastic matrix. The composite hydrogels demonstrated a significant improvement in mechanical strength, biostability, as well as biological performance compared to pure HAc. Moreover, the multi-material printing of composites with different calcium phosphate contents was achieved by adjusting the ionic concentration of inks. Our method greatly accelerates the 3D printing of various functional or hybridized materials with complex geometries through the design and modification of printing materials coupled with in situ post-printing functionalization and hybridization in reactive viscoplastic matrices.