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Biomaterials. 2011 Sep;32(27):6456-70. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2011.05.044. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

Network connectivity, mechanical properties and cell adhesion for hyaluronic acid/PEG hydrogels.

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School of Biomedicine, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom.


The study aimed to explore the influence of the network architecture on the mechanical properties and degradability of HA/PEG gels, and to highlight the relationship between Young's modulus and cell colonization with a selected architecture. Three different families of hyaluronic acid (HA)-based photopolymerized PEG diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogels were compared, using different concentrations and molecular weights (64 and 234 kDa) of HA: semi-IPNs containing native HA in a PEG network (type I gels); co-networks obtained using thiolated HA as chain transfer agent during PEGDA polymerization (type II gels); co-networks obtained from the in situ preparation of a macromonomer derived from the Michael-type addition of thiolated HA on PEGDA (type III gels). From a comparative study of rheological properties and enzymatic degradability, type II gels were selected for a further study aiming to link their mechanical properties to cell spreading. Employing RGD-functionalized materials, Young's moduli were measured via AFM nanoindentation while the cell spreading behavior was quantitatively evaluated by monitoring morphology and metabolic activity (MTS assay) of L929 fibroblasts. By revealing a clear relation between increasing modulus and increasing cell spreading/proliferation, the study showed the possibility to fine tune the cell/material interactions with appropriate reactive processing techniques.

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