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Biomacromolecules. 2012 Apr 9;13(4):963-73. doi: 10.1021/bm300332w. Epub 2012 Mar 22.

Stem cell-derived extracellular matrix enables survival and multilineage differentiation within superporous hydrogels.

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Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences, University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois 60612-7231, United States.


Hydrophilic poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogel surfaces resist protein adsorption and are generally thought to be unsuitable for anchorage-dependent cells to adhere. Intriguingly, our previous findings revealed that PEGDA superporous hydrogel scaffolds (SPHs) allow anchorage of bone marrow derived human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) and support their long-term survival. Therefore, we hypothesized that the physicochemical characteristics of the scaffold impart properties that could foster cellular responses. We examined if hMSCs alter their microenvironment to allow cell attachment by synthesizing their own extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Immunofluorescence staining revealed extensive expression of collagen type I, collagen type IV, laminin, and fibronectin within hMSC-seeded SPHs by the end of the third week. Whether cultured in serum-free or serum-supplemented medium, hMSC ECM protein gene expression patterns exhibited no substantial changes. The presence of serum proteins is required for initial anchorage of hMSCs within the SPHs but not for the hMSC survival after 24 h. In contrast to 2D expansion on tissue culture plastic (TCP), hMSCs cultured within SPHs proliferate similarly in the presence or absence of serum. To test whether hMSCs retain their undifferentiated state within the SPHs, cell-seeded constructs were cultured for 3 weeks in stem cell maintenance medium and the expression of hMSC-specific cell surface markers were evaluated by flow cytometry. CD105, CD90, CD73, and CD44 were present to a similar extent in the SPH and in 2D monolayer culture. We further demonstrated multilineage potential of hMSCs grown in the PEGDA SPHs, whereby differentiation into osteoblasts, chondrocytes, and adipocytes could be induced. The present study demonstrates the potential of hMSCs to alter the "blank" PEGDA environment to a milieu conducive to cell growth and multilineage differentiation by secreting adhesive ECM proteins within the porous network of the SPH scaffolds.

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