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Biomaterials. 2006 Nov;27(31):5391-8. Epub 2006 Jul 7.

Micromolding of shape-controlled, harvestable cell-laden hydrogels.

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Division of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, and Center for Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston 02115, USA.


Encapsulation of mammalian cells within hydrogels has great utility for a variety of applications ranging from tissue engineering to cell-based assays. In this work, we present a technique to encapsulate live cells in three-dimensional (3D) microscale hydrogels (microgels) of controlled shapes and sizes in the form of harvestable free standing units. Cells were suspended in methacrylated hyaluronic acid (MeHA) or poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogel precursor solution containing photoinitiator, micromolded using a hydrophilic poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) stamp, and crosslinked using ultraviolet (UV) radiation. By controlling the features on the PDMS stamp, the size and shape of the molded hydrogels were controlled. Cells within microgels were well distributed and remained viable. These shape-specific microgels could be easily retrieved, cultured and potentially assembled to generate structures with controlled spatial distribution of multiple cell types. Further development of this technique may lead to applications in 3D co-cultures for tissue/organ regeneration and cell-based assays in which it is important to mimic the architectural intricacies of physiological cell-cell interactions.

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