Biodegradable, photocrosslinked alginate hydrogels with independently tailorable physical properties and cell adhesivity

Oju Jeon, Caitlin Powell, Shaoly M Ahmed, Eben Alsberg
Tissue Engineering. Part A 2010, 16 (9): 2915-25
Biocompatible polymers capable of photopolymerization are of immense interest for tissue engineering applications as they can be injected in a minimally invasive manner into a defect site and, then upon application of ultraviolet light, rapidly form hydrogels in situ. Cell adhesion interactions with a biomaterial are known to be important in regulating cell behaviors such as proliferation and differentiation. Therefore, we have covalently modified photocrosslinkable alginate with cell adhesion ligands containing the Arg-Gly-Asp amino acid sequence to form biodegradable, photocrosslinked alginate hydrogels with controlled cell adhesivity. This unique polymer system allows for independent modulation of the physical and biochemical signaling environment presented to cells. The physical properties of the hydrogels such as elastic moduli, swelling ratios, and degradation profiles were similar at the same crosslinking density regardless of the presence of adhesion ligands. Chondrocytes seeded on the surface of the adhesion ligand-modified hydrogels were able to attach and spread, whereas those seeded on unmodified hydrogels exhibited minimal adherence. Importantly, the adhesion-ligand-modified hydrogels enhanced the proliferation and chondrogenic differentiated function of encapsulated chondrocytes as demonstrated by increased DNA content and production of glycosaminoglycans compared to unmodified control hydrogels. This new photocrosslinkable, biodegradable biomaterial system in which the soluble (e.g., growth factors) and insoluble (e.g., cell adhesion ligands) biochemical signaling environment and the biomaterial physical properties (e.g., the elastic moduli) can be independently controlled may be a powerful tool for elucidating the individual and combined effects of these parameters on cell function for cartilage tissue engineering and other regenerative medicine applications.

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