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One-Step Synthesis of Gelatin-Conjugated Supramolecular Hydrogels for Dynamic Regulation of Adhesion Contact and Morphology of Myoblasts

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posted on 2022-03-29, 19:04 authored by Kentaro Hayashi, Mami Matsuda, Nodoka Mitake, Masaki Nakahata, Natalie Munding, Akira Harada, Stefan Kaufmann, Yoshinori Takashima, Motomu Tanaka
Hydrogels possessing fine-adjustable and switchable elasticity emulate the mechanical microenvironments of biological cells, which are known to change dynamically during development and disease progression. In this study, a supramolecular hydrogel conjugated with gelatin side chains was synthesized. By systematically screening the molar fraction of supramolecular host/guest cross-linkers, Young’s modulus of the substrate was fine-adjusted to the level for myoblasts, E ≈ 10 kPa. C2C12 myoblasts reproducibly and firmly adhered to the gelatin-conjugated hydrogel via focal adhesion contacts consisting of integrin clusters, whereas only a few cells adhered to the gel without gelatin side chains. The elasticity of the gelatin-conjugated hydrogel was switchable to desired levels by simply adding and removing free guest molecules in appropriate concentrations without interfering with cell viability. Immunofluorescence confocal microscopy images of fixed cells confirmed the adaptation of focal adhesions and remodeling of actin cytoskeletons on the gelatin-conjugated hydrogel. Time-lapse phase-contrast images demonstrated the dynamic response of the cells, manifested in their morphology, to an abrupt change in the substrate elasticity. Gelatin-conjugated hydrogels with switchable elasticity enable the direct and reversible mechanical stimulation of cells in one step without tedious surface functionalization with adhesion ligands.

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