Immobilization of adhesive protein domains in PEG hydrogels
Hyland, Kelly Elise
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The fundamental goal of biomaterials design for regenerative medicine is to promote the restoration of functional tissue. In wound healing research, one strategy is to introduce space-filling materials, or scaffolds, to intervene and prevent scarring. The scaffold must be nontoxic, permit high rates of oxygen and small molecule diffusion, and offer tissue-matching stiffness. Critically, they must also promote attachment of wound healing cells. A class of materials called synthetic hydrogels meet the first three criteria, but must be functionalized with bioactive ligands to promote cell attachment. Synthetic hydrogels, most numerously poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrogels, offer a modular platform for biomaterials design because the bioactive ligand identity and density, as well as hydrogel stiffness, can be precisely and independently controlled. However, PEG hydrogels have seldom been used as a 3D platform for investigating differences in cell behavior when in contact with different extracellular matrix protein domains. Using recombinant protein design, expression, and characterization, this study compares cell behavior when cultured on PEG hydrogels presenting structured protein domains and minimum sequence peptides. We observe differences in cell morphology, protease production and attachment force when cultured on hydrogels with different adhesive protein domains.