Engineering Cellular Microenvironments with Photo- and Enzymatically Responsive Hydrogels: Toward Biomimetic 3D Cell Culture Models.
Acc Chem Res. 2017 Mar 27;:
Authors: Tam RY, Smith LJ, Shoichet MS
Conventional cell culture techniques using 2D polystyrene or glass have provided great insight into key biochemical mechanisms responsible for cellular events such as cell proliferation, differentiation, and cell-cell interactions. However, the physical and chemical properties of 2D culture in vitro are dramatically different than those found in the native cellular microenvironment in vivo. Cells grown on 2D substrates differ significantly from those grown in vivo, and this explains, in part, why many promising drug candidates discovered through in vitro drug screening assays fail when they are translated to in vivo animal or human models. To overcome this obstacle, 3D cell culture using biomimetic hydrogels has emerged as an alternative strategy to recapitulate native cell growth in vitro. Hydrogels, which are water-swollen polymers, can be synthetic or naturally derived. Many methods have been developed to control the physical and chemical properties of the hydrogels to match those found in specific tissues. Compared to 2D culture, cells cultured in 3D gels with the appropriate physicochemical cues can behave more like they naturally do in vivo. While conventional hydrogels involve modifications to the bulk material to mimic the static aspects of the cellular microenvironment, recent progress has focused on using more dynamic hydrogels, the chemical and physical properties of which can be altered with external stimuli to better mimic the dynamics of the native cellular microenvironment found in vivo. In this Account, we describe our progress in designing stimuli-responsive, optically transparent hydrogels that can be used as biomimetic extracellular matrices (ECMs) to study cell differentiation and migration in the context of modeling the nervous system and cancer. Specifically, we developed photosensitive agarose and hyaluronic acid hydrogels that are activated by single or two-photon irradiation for biomolecule immobilization at specific volumes within the 3D hydrogel. By controlling the spatial location of protein immobilization, we created 3D patterns and protein concentration gradients within these gels. We used the latter to study the effect of VEGF-165 concentration gradients on the interactions between endothelial cells and retinal stem cells. Hyaluronic acid (HA) is particularly compelling as it is naturally found in the ECM of many tissues and the tumor microenvironment. We used Diels-Alder click chemistry and cryogelation to alter the chemical and physical properties of these hydrogels. We also designed HA hydrogels to study the invasion of breast cancer cells. HA gels were chemically cross-linked with matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-degradable peptides that degrade in the presence of cancer cell-secreted MMPs, thus allowing cells to remodel their local microenvironment and invade into HA/MMP-degradable gels.
PMID: 28345876 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]