Programming Mechanical and Physicochemical Properties of 3D Hydrogel Cellular Microcultures via Direct Ink Writing

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3D hydrogel scaffolds are widely used in cellular microcultures and tissue engineering. Using direct ink writing, microperiodic poly(2-hydroxyethyl-methacrylate) (pHEMA) scaffolds are created that are then printed, cured, and modified by absorbing 30 kDa protein poly-l-lysine (PLL) to render them biocompliant in model NIH/3T3 fibroblast and MC3T3-E1 preosteoblast cell cultures. Spatial light interference microscopy (SLIM) live cell imaging studies are carried out to quantify cellular motilities for each cell type, substrate, and surface treatment of interest. 3D scaffold mechanics is investigated using atomic force microscopy (AFM), while their absorption kinetics are determined by confocal fluorescence microscopy (CFM) for a series of hydrated hydrogel films prepared from prepolymers with different homopolymer-to-monomer (Mr) ratios. Our observations reveal that the inks with higher Mr values yield relatively more open-mesh gels due to a lower degree of entanglement. The biocompatibility of printed hydrogel scaffolds can be controlled by both PLL content and hydrogel mesh properties.

Tan Nguyen