Hydrogels with patterned biophysical and biochemical properties have found increasing attention in the biomaterials community. In this work, we explore alginate-based materials with two orthogonal crosslinking mechanisms: the spontaneous Diels-Alder reaction and the ultraviolet light-initiated thiol-ene reaction. Combining these mechanisms in one material and spatially restricting the location of the latter using photomasks, enables the formation of dual-crosslinked hydrogels with patterns in stiffness, biomolecule presentation and degradation, granting local control over cell behavior. Patterns in stiffness are characterized morphologically by confocal microscopy and mechanically by uniaxial compression and microindentation measurement. Mouse embryonic fibroblasts seeded on stiffness-patterned substrates attach preferably and attain a spread morphology on stiff compared to soft regions. Human mesenchymal stem cells demonstrate preferential adipogenic differentiation on soft surfaces and osteogenic differentiation on stiff surfaces. Patterns in biomolecule presentation reveal favored attachment of mouse pre-osteoblasts on stripe regions, where thiolated cell-adhesive biomolecules have been coupled. Patterns in degradation are visualized by microindentation measurement following collagenase exposure. Patterned tissue infiltration into degradable regions on the surface is discernible in n=5/12 samples, when these materials are implanted subcutaneously into the backs of mice. Taken together, these results demonstrate that our hydrogel system with patterns in biophysical and biochemical properties enables the study of how environmental cues affect multiple cell behaviors in vitro and could be applied to guide endogenous tissue growth in diverse healing scenarios in vivo. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Hydrogels with patterns in biophysical and biochemical properties have been explored in the biomaterials community in order to spatially control or guide cell behavior. In our alginate-based system, we demonstrate the effect of local substrate stiffness and biomolecule presentation on the in vitro cell attachment, morphology, migration and differentiation behavior of two different mouse cell lines and human primary cells. Additionally, the effect of degradation patterns on the in vivo tissue infiltration is analyzed following subcutaneous implantation into a mouse model. The achievement of patterned tissue infiltration following the hydrogel template represents an important step towards guiding endogenous healing responses, thus inviting application in various tissue engineering contexts.
Last updated on 05/04/2022
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