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Research Papers

A Novel Suspended Hydrogel Membrane Platform for Cell Culture

[+] Author and Article Information
Yong X. Chen

Department of Biomedical
and Chemical Engineering,
Syracuse University,
900 S. Crouse Avenue,
Syracuse, NY 13210
e-mail: ychen35@syr.edu

Shihao Yang

Department of Biomedical
and Chemical Engineering,
Syracuse University,
900 S. Crouse Avenue,
Syracuse, NY 13210
e-mail: syang21@syr.edu

Jiahan Yan

Department of Biomedical and Chemical
Engineering,
Syracuse University,
900 S. Crouse Avenue,
Syracuse, NY 13210
e-mail: jyan13@syr.edu

Ming-Han Hsieh

Department of Biomedical
and Chemical Engineering,
Syracuse University,
900 S. Crouse Avenue,
Syracuse, NY 13210
e-mail: mhsieh01@syr.edu

Lingyan Weng

Department of Biomedical
and Chemical Engineering,
Syracuse University,
900 S. Crouse Avenue,
Syracuse, NY 13210
e-mail: lweng@syr.edu

Jessica L. Ouderkirk

Department of Biomedical and Chemical
Engineering,
Syracuse University,
900 S. Crouse Avenue,
Syracuse, NY 13210
e-mail: jloude6@gmail.com

Mira Krendel

Department of Cell and Developmental Biology,
SUNY Upstate Medical University,
750 East Adams Street,
Syracuse, NY 13210
e-mail: krendelm@upstate.edu

Pranav Soman

Department of Biomedical and Chemical
Engineering,
Syracuse University,
900 S. Crouse Avenue,
Syracuse, NY 13210
e-mail: psoman@syr.edu

Manuscript received June 29, 2015; final manuscript received August 25, 2015; published online September 29, 2015. Assoc. Editor: Ibrahim Ozbolat.

J. Nanotechnol. Eng. Med 6(2), 021002 (Sep 29, 2015) (9 pages) Paper No: NANO-15-1048; doi: 10.1115/1.4031467 History: Received June 29, 2015; Revised August 25, 2015

Current cell-culture is largely performed on synthetic two-dimensional (2D) petri dishes or permeable supports such as Boyden chambers, mostly because of their ease of use and established protocols. It is generally accepted that modern cell biology research requires new physiologically relevant three-dimensional (3D) cell culture platform to mimic in vivo cell responses. To that end, we report the design and development of a suspended hydrogel membrane (ShyM) platform using gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) hydrogel. ShyM thickness (0.25–1 mm) and mechanical properties (10–70 kPa) can be varied by controlling the size of the supporting grid and concentration of GelMA prepolymer, respectively. GelMA ShyMs, with dual media exposure, were found to be compatible with both the cell-seeding and the cell-encapsulation approach as tested using murine 10T1/2 cells and demonstrated higher cellular spreading and proliferation as compared to flat GelMA unsuspended control. The utility of ShyM was also demonstrated using a case-study of invasion of cancer cells. ShyMs, similar to Boyden chambers, are compatible with standard well-plates designs and can be printed using commonly available 3D printers. In the future, ShyM can be potentially extended to variety of photosensitive hydrogels and cell types, to develop new in vitro assays to investigate complex cell–cell and cell–extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions.

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Figures

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Design and fabrication of suspended hydrogel membrane (ShyM): (a) Process flow to synthesize photosensitive gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) prepolymer solution. Two prototypes were developed in polylactic acid (PLA) using a 3D printer. Ultraviolet light (UV) was used to crosslink photosensitive GelMA solution to form a membrane suspended between the PLA grids. Prototype 1 (b) consist of three separate parts: the top and bottom inserts and membrane insert. The membrane insert with a yellow food dye is depicted in the photograph. Prototype 2 (c) is a monolithic construct printed using a 3D printer. GelMA with or without cells can be suspended to form a membrane with dual fluid exposure. Scale bar: 5 mm. (d) Prototype is designed to fit within a standard 24 well plate. The side gap facilitates ease of changing media during cell culture experiments. (e) Two cell-culture conditions were tested using C3H/10T1/2 murine mesenchymal progenitor cells. Cells were either seeded on top of ShyMs (1) or encapsulated within ShyMs (2). ShyM modulus was varied from 10 kPa to 70 kPa by varying the concentration of GelMA, while its thickness was modulated by controlling the size of the PLA support grids.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Characterization of ShyM properties: (a) The thickness of ShyMs can be varied by controlling the PLA grid size. As compared to the PLA grid, ShyM thickness is smaller, however, highly repeatable. (b) Mass swelling measurements demonstrate that 15% GelMA is significantly lower as compared to 7% and 10% GelMA. (c) GelMA ShyMs formed within PLA grids were transversely cut to expose the side section of the membrane, and incubated in PBS for 2 hrs and 2 and 7 days. We observe significant differences between swelling properties of 7% ShyMs till 0–2 days as compared to 10% and 15% GelMA ShyMs. (d) ShyM swelling with and without the PLA-grid demonstrate the contribution of PLA grid in constraining the transverse swelling response of ShyMs. (e) A custom-made rheometer setup was developed to measure the change in storage modulus as a function of UV exposure time. A time of 100 s was chosen to simulate UV exposure time for crosslinking the ShyMs. A higher storage modulus is observed for 15% GelMA as compared to 7% and 10% GelMA. (f) Dynamic mechanical analyzer (DMA) was used to measure the compressive modulus, and the slope between 0% and 10% was considered for analysis. Results demonstrate that both 15% and 10% GelMA have significantly higher modulus as compared to 7% GelMA. (g) Diffusion constants of 7%, 10%, and 15% GelMA were calculated by using 70 kDa FITC-dextran for FRAP analysis. Results show the diffusion coefficient of 15% are significantly lower than 7% and 10%. Data plotted as mean and standard deviations: *, P < 0.05; **, P < 0.01; ***, P < 0.001.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Murine mesenchymal 10T1/2 cells were seeded on 7%, 10%, and 15% ShyMs and control flat samples adhered to a modified glass substrate, and viability, proliferation and nuclei aspect ratio were characterized: (a and b) representative images of cells seeded on 7%, 10%, and 15% GelMA ShyMs at 10× and 63× magnifications. Cells were stained for F-actin (green) and nuclei (blue). (c) Schematic depicts the experimental design of ShyMs as well as flat control sample. (d) Viability of 10T1/2 cells seeded on GelMA ShyMs was assessed via calcein-AM/ethidium homodimer LIVE/DEAD assay at 48 hrs post-seeding. Results demonstrate no change in viability of cells when compared to flat control. (e) Aspect ratio was calculated by comparing the ratio of the long axis of nucleus with the short axis. Although not statistically significant, we observe a trend of increasing aspect ratio with increased GelMA concentration. Control used in this case is using 10% GelMA. (f) Proliferation was conducted using CCK-8 assay, and the absorbance value was compared with flat control (10% GelMA) as well as TCPS and blank (cck-8 and media only). The proliferation of cells seeded on all ShyMs are higher that of all flat controls at three time points. Error bars represent the SD of at least three independent samples: *, P < 0.05; **, P < 0.01; ***, P < 0.001.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Cell encapsulation of 10T1/2 cells within 15% GelMA ShyMs: (a to d) ShyMs with encapsulated cells were stained for F-actin and nuclei and fluorescence micrographs were captured at 10× and 63×. Cells appear round in shape on day 2 post-encapsulation but spread at day 4 and form an interconnected network on day 7 as compared to flat control. (e) Schematic of experimental design. (f) Aspect ratio of nuclei were calculate. Results show statistical significance between aspect ratio at days 4 and 7 as compared to both day 2 within ShyMs as well as flat control samples. (g and h) Viability of 10T1/2 cells encapsulated in ShyMs was assessed via calcein-AM /ethidium homodimer at 48 hrs post-encapsulation. High cell viability was maintained in ShyMs. (i and j) The Click-iT EdU assay was performed at day 5 to assess the proliferative ability of 10T1/2 cells throughout the ShyM (labeled with Alexa 555). Results demonstrate higher proliferation within ShyM as compared to controls. Error bars represent the SD of at least three independent samples: *, P < 0.05; **, P < 0.01; ***, P < 0.001.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

(a) MDA-MB-231 cells plated densely on 10% GelMA ShyMs and stained with Calcein AM. These cells are located on top surface of the ShyM. (b) Side view (YZ projection) of MDA-MB-231 cells migrating into the ShyMs 1 day post-plating. It is clear that some cells are no longer at the top but are invading downward (*). (c and d) Top and bottom optical sections for the same field of view as the one shown in (b) and (c) shows cells near the top of the ShyMs that have not invaded, while (d) represents cells that have invaded. The line in these images represent the cross section taken to create the orthogonal projections shown in (b). Scale bars, 100 μm.

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