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Sci Rep. 2014 May 7;4:4793. doi: 10.1038/srep04793.

Optical cell separation from three-dimensional environment in photodegradable hydrogels for pure culture techniques.

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Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba 1-1-1 Ten-noudai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8575, Japan.
Research Center for Stem Cell Engineering, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Central 5th, 1-1-1 Higashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8565, Japan.


Cell sorting is an essential and efficient experimental tool for the isolation and characterization of target cells. A three-dimensional environment is crucial in determining cell behavior and cell fate in biological analysis. Herein, we have applied photodegradable hydrogels to optical cell separation from a 3D environment using a computer-controlled light irradiation system. The hydrogel is composed of photocleavable tetra-arm polyethylene glycol and gelatin, which optimized cytocompatibility to adjust a composition of crosslinker and gelatin. Local light irradiation could degrade the hydrogel corresponding to the micropattern image designed on a laptop; minimum resolution of photodegradation was estimated at 20 µm. Light irradiation separated an encapsulated fluorescent microbead without any contamination of neighbor beads, even at multiple targets. Upon selective separation of target cells in the hydrogels, the separated cells have grown on another dish, resulting in pure culture. Cell encapsulation, light irradiation and degradation products exhibited negligible cytotoxicity in overall process.

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