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Designer Hydrogel with Intelligently Switchable Stem-Cell Contact for Incubating Cartilaginous Microtissues

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journal contribution
posted on 27.08.2020, 11:36 by Zijie Xiahou, Yunlang She, Jiahui Zhang, Yechi Qin, Guifei Li, Lili Zhang, Haowei Fang, Kunxi Zhang, Chang Chen, Jingbo Yin
Stem-cell-derived organoid can resemble in vivo tissue counterpart and mimic at least one function of tissue or organ, possessing great potential for biomedical application. The present study develops a hydrogel with cell-responsive switch to guide spontaneous and sequential proliferation and aggregation of adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) without inputting artificial stimulus for in vitro constructing cartilaginous microtissues with enhanced retention of cell–matrix and cell–cell interactions. Polylactic acid (PLA) rods are surface-aminolyzed by cystamine, followed by being involved in the amidation of poly­(( l-glutamic acid) and adipic acid dihydrazide (ADH) to form a hydrogel. Along with tubular pore formation in hydrogel after dissolution of PLA rods, aminolyzed PLA molecules with disulfide bonds on rod surfaces are covalently transferred to the tubular pore surfaces of poly­(l-glutamic acid)/ADH hydrogel. Because PLA attaches cells, while poly­(l-glutamic acid)/ADH hydrogel repels cells, ASCs are found to adhere and proliferate on the tubular pore surfaces of hydrogel first and then cleave disulfide bonds by secreting molecules containing thiol, thus inducing desorption of PLA molecules and leading to their spontaneous detachment and aggregation. Associated with chondrogenic induction by TGF-β1 and IGF-1 in vitro for 28 days, the hydrogel as an all-in-one incubator produces well-engineered columnar cartilage microtissues from ASCs, with the glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and collagen type II (COL II) deposition achieving 64 and 69% of those in chondrocytes pellet, respectively. The cartilage microtissues further matured in vivo for 8 weeks to exhibit extremely similar histological features and biomechanical performance to native hyaline cartilage. The GAGs and COL II content, as well as compressive modulus of the matured tissue show no significant difference with native cartilage. The designer hydrogel may hold a promise for long-term culture of other types of stem cells and organoids.

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