Institute Affiliations


All Publications


  • Tuning Polymer Hydrophilicity to Regulate Gel Mechanics and Encapsulated Cell Morphology. Advanced healthcare materials Navarro, R. S., Huang, M. S., Roth, J. G., Hubka, K. M., Long, C. M., Enejder, A., Heilshorn, S. C. 2022: e2200011

    Abstract

    Mechanically tunable hydrogels are attractive platforms for three-dimensional cell culture, as hydrogel stiffness plays an important role in cell behavior. Traditionally, hydrogel stiffness has been controlled through altering either the polymer concentration or the stoichiometry between crosslinker reactive groups. Here, we present an alternative strategy based upon tuning the hydrophilicity of an elastin-like protein (ELP). ELPs undergo a phase transition that leads to protein aggregation at increasing temperatures. We hypothesize that increasing this transition temperature through bioconjugation with azide-containing molecules of increasing hydrophilicity will allow direct control of the resulting gel stiffness by making the crosslinking groups more accessible. These azide-modified ELPs are crosslinked into hydrogels with bicyclononyne-modified hyaluronic acid (HA-BCN) using bioorthogonal, click chemistry, resulting in hydrogels with tunable storage moduli (100-1000Pa). Human mesenchymal stromal cells, human umbilical vein endothelial cells, and human neural progenitor cells are all observed to alter their cell morphology when encapsulated within hydrogels of varying stiffness. Taken together, we demonstrate the use of protein hydrophilicity as a lever to tune hydrogel mechanical properties. These hydrogels have tunable moduli over a stiffness range relevant to soft tissues, support the viability of encapsulated cells, and modify cell spreading as a consequence of gel stiffness. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/adhm.202200011

    View details for PubMedID 35373510

  • Advancing models of neural development with biomaterials. Nature reviews. Neuroscience Roth, J. G., Huang, M. S., Li, T. L., Feig, V. R., Jiang, Y., Cui, B., Greely, H. T., Bao, Z., Pasca, S. P., Heilshorn, S. C. 2021

    Abstract

    Human pluripotent stem cells have emerged as a promising in vitro model system for studying the brain. Two-dimensional and three-dimensional cell culture paradigms have provided valuable insights into the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric disorders, but they remain limited in their capacity to model certain features of human neural development. Specifically, current models do not efficiently incorporate extracellular matrix-derived biochemical and biophysical cues, facilitate multicellular spatio-temporal patterning, or achieve advanced functional maturation. Engineered biomaterials have the capacity to create increasingly biomimetic neural microenvironments, yet further refinement is needed before these approaches are widely implemented. This Review therefore highlights how continued progression and increased integration of engineered biomaterials may be well poised to address intractable challenges in recapitulating human neural development.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41583-021-00496-y

    View details for PubMedID 34376834