Cell-friendly inverse opal-like hydrogels for a spatially separated co-culture system


Kim J, Bencherif SA, Li WA, Mooney DJ. Cell-friendly inverse opal-like hydrogels for a spatially separated co-culture system. Macromol Rapid Commun. 2014;35 (18) :1578-86.

Date Published:

2014 Sep


Three-dimensional macroporous scaffolds have extensively been studied for cell-based tissue engineering but their use is mostly limited to mechanical support for cell adhesion and growth on the surface of macropores. Here, a templated fabrication method is described to prepare cell-friendly inverse opal-like hydrogels (IOHs) allowing both cell encapsulation within the hydrogel matrix and cell seeding on the surface of macropores. Ionically crosslinked alginate microbeads and photocrosslinkable biocompatible polymers are used as a sacrificial template and as a matrix, respectively. The alginate microbeads are easily removed by a chelating agent, with minimal toxicity for the encapsulated cells during template removal. The outer surface of macropores in IOHs can also provide a space for cell adherence. The cells encapsulated or attached in IOHs are able to remain viable and to proliferate over time. The elastic modulus and cell-adhesion properties of IOHs can be easily controlled and tuned. Finally, it is demonstrated that IOH can be used to co-culture two distinct cell populations in different spatial positions. This cell-friendly IOH system provides a 3D scaffold for organizing different cell types in a controllable microenvironment to investigate biological processes such as stem cell niches or tumor microenvironments.