skip to main content


This content will become publicly available on November 14, 2024

Title: Transient Competitors to Modulate Dynamic Covalent Cross-Linking of Recombinant Hydrogels
Hydrogels cross-linked by dynamic covalent chemistry (DCC) are stiff and remodelable, making them ideal biomimetics for tissue engineering applications. Due to the reversibility of DCC cross-links, the opportunity exists to transiently control hydrogel network formation through the use of small molecule competitors. Specifically, we incorporate low molecular weight competitors that reversibly disrupt the formation of hydrazone cross-links as they diffuse through a recombinant hydrogel. Using complementary experimental, computational, and theoretical polymer physics approaches, we present a family of competitors that predictably alter hydrogel gelation time and mechanics. By changing the competitor chemistry, we connect key reaction parameters (forward and reverse reactions rates and thermodynamic equilibrium constants) to the delayed onset of a percolated network, increased hydrogel gelation time, and transient control of hydrogel stiffness. Using human intestinal organoids as a model system, we demonstrate the ability to tune gelation kinetics of a recombinant hydrogel for uniform encapsulation of individual, patient-derived stem cells and their proliferation into three-dimensional structures. Taken together, our data establish a validated framework to relate molecular-level parameters of transient competitors to predicted macromolecular-network properties. As interest in biomimetic, DCC-cross-linked hydrogels continues to grow, these results will enable the rationale design of bespoke, dynamic biomaterials for tissue engineering.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2033302
NSF-PAR ID:
10475533
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
American Chemical Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Chemistry of Materials
Volume:
35
Issue:
21
ISSN:
0897-4756
Page Range / eLocation ID:
8969 to 8983
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Dynamic covalent chemistry (DCC) crosslinks can form hydrogels with tunable mechanical properties permissive to injectability and self‐healing. However, not all hydrogels with transient crosslinks are easily extrudable. For this reason, two additional design parameters must be considered when formulating DCC‐crosslinked hydrogels: 1) degree of functionalization (DoF) and 2) polymer molecular weight (MW). To investigate these parameters, hydrogels comprised of two recombinant biopolymers: 1) a hyaluronic acid (HA) modified with benzaldehyde and 2) an elastin‐like protein (ELP) modified with hydrazine (ELP‐HYD), are formulated. Several hydrogel families are synthesized with distinct HA MW and DoF while keeping the ELP‐HYD component constant. The resulting hydrogels have a range of stiffnesses,G′ ≈ 10–1000 Pa, and extrudability, which is attributed to the combined effects of DCC crosslinks and polymer entanglements. In general, lower MW formulations require lower forces for injectability, regardless of stiffness. Higher DoF formulations exhibit more rapid self‐healing. Gel extrusion through a cannula (2 m length, 0.25 mm diameter) demonstrates the potential for minimally invasive delivery for future biomedical applications. In summary, this work highlights additional parameters that influence the injectability and network formation of DCC‐crosslinked hydrogels and aims to guide future design of injectable hydrogels.

     
    more » « less
  2. Shear‐thinning, self‐healing hydrogels are promising vehicles for therapeutic cargo delivery due to their ability to be injected using minimally invasive surgical procedures. An injectable hydrogel using a novel combination of dynamic covalent crosslinking with thermoresponsive engineered proteins is presented. Ex situ at room temperature, rapid gelation occurs through dynamic covalent hydrazone bonds by simply mixing two components: hydrazine‐modified elastin‐like protein (ELP) and aldehyde‐modified hyaluronic acid. This hydrogel provides significant mechanical protection to encapsulated human mesenchymal stem cells during syringe needle injection and rapidly recovers after injection to retain the cells homogeneously within a 3D environment. In situ, the ELP undergoes a thermal phase transition, as confirmed by coherent anti‐Stokes Raman scattering microscopy observation of dense ELP thermal aggregates. The formation of the secondary network reinforces the hydrogel and results in a tenfold slower erosion rate compared to a control hydrogel without secondary thermal crosslinking. This improved structural integrity enables cell culture for three weeks postinjection, and encapsulated cells maintain their ability to differentiate into multiple lineages, including chondrogenic, adipogenic, and osteogenic cell types. Together, these data demonstrate the promising potential of ELP–HA hydrogels for injectable stem cell transplantation and tissue regeneration.

     
    more » « less
  3. Three-dimensional bioprinting has emerged as a promising tool for spatially patterning cells to fabricate models of human tissue. Here, we present an engineered bioink material designed to have viscoelastic mechanical behavior, similar to that of living tissue. This viscoelastic bioink is cross-linked through dynamic covalent bonds, a reversible bond type that allows for cellular remodeling over time. Viscoelastic materials are challenging to use as inks, as one must tune the kinetics of the dynamic cross-links to allow for both extrudability and long-term stability. We overcome this challenge through the use of small molecule catalysts and competitors that temporarily modulate the cross-linking kinetics and degree of network formation. These inks were then used to print a model of breast cancer cell invasion, where the inclusion of dynamic cross-links was found to be required for the formation of invasive protrusions. Together, we demonstrate the power of engineered, dynamic bioinks to recapitulate the native cellular microenvironment for disease modeling.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The fabrication of three‐dimensional (3D) scaffolds is indispensable to tissue engineering and 3D printing is emerging as an important approach towards this. Hydrogels are often used as inks in extrusion‐based 3D printing, including with encapsulated cells; however, numerous challenging requirements exist, including appropriate viscosity, the ability to stabilize after extrusion, and cytocompatibility. Here, we present a shear‐thinning and self‐healing hydrogel crosslinked through dynamic covalent chemistry for 3D bioprinting. Specifically, hyaluronic acid was modified with either hydrazide or aldehyde groups and mixed to form hydrogels containing a dynamic hydrazone bond. Due to their shear‐thinning and self‐healing properties, the hydrogels could be extruded for 3D printing of structures with high shape fidelity, stability to relaxation, and cytocompatibility with encapsulated fibroblasts (>80% viability). Forces for extrusion and filament sizes were dependent on parameters such as material concentration and needle gauge. To increase scaffold functionality, a second photocrosslinkable interpenetrating network was included that was used for orthogonal photostiffening and photopatterning through a thiol‐ene reaction. Photostiffening increased the scaffold's modulus (∼300%) while significantly decreasing erosion (∼70%), whereas photopatterning allowed for spatial modification of scaffolds with dyes. Overall, this work introduces a simple approach to both fabricate and modify 3D printed scaffolds. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 106A: 865–875, 2018.

     
    more » « less
  5. Click chemistry reactions have become an important tool for synthesizing user-defined hydrogels consisting of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) and bioactive peptides for tissue engineering. However, because click crosslinking proceeds via a step-growth mechanism, multi-arm telechelic precursors are required, which has some disadvantages. Here, we report for the first time that this requirement can be circumvented to create PEG–peptide hydrogels solely from linear precursors through the use of two orthogonal click reactions, the thiol–maleimide Michael addition and thiol–norbornene click reaction. The rapid kinetics of both click reactions allowed for quick formation of norbornene-functionalized PEG–peptide block copolymers via Michael addition, which were subsequently photocrosslinked into hydrogels with a dithiol linker. Characterization and in vitro testing demonstrated that the hydrogels have highly tunable physicochemical properties and excellent cytocompatibility. In addition, stoichiometric control over the crosslinking reaction can be leveraged to leave unreacted norbornene groups in the hydrogel for subsequent hydrogel functionalization via bioorthogonal inverse-electron demand Diels–Alder click reactions with s -tetrazines. After selectively capping norbornene groups in a user-defined region with cysteine, this feature was leveraged for protein patterning. Collectively, these results demonstrate that our novel chemical strategy is a simple and versatile approach to the development of hydrogels for tissue engineering that could be useful for a variety of applications. 
    more » « less