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Acta Biomater. 2017 Oct 15;62:42-63. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2017.07.028. Epub 2017 Jul 20.

Manufacturing of hydrogel biomaterials with controlled mechanical properties for tissue engineering applications.

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Department of Bioengineering, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA.
Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA.
Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, and Center for Bioengineering Research and Education, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N47, Canada.
Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Sharif University of Technology, Azadi Ave., Tehran, Iran.
Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, and Center for Bioengineering Research and Education, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N47, Canada. Electronic address:


Hydrogels have been recognized as crucial biomaterials in the field of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and drug delivery applications due to their specific characteristics. These biomaterials benefit from retaining a large amount of water, effective mass transfer, similarity to natural tissues and the ability to form different shapes. However, having relatively poor mechanical properties is a limiting factor associated with hydrogel biomaterials. Controlling the biomechanical properties of hydrogels is of paramount importance. In this work, firstly, mechanical characteristics of hydrogels and methods employed for characterizing these properties are explored. Subsequently, the most common approaches used for tuning mechanical properties of hydrogels including but are not limited to, interpenetrating polymer networks, nanocomposites, self-assembly techniques, and co-polymerization are discussed. The performance of different techniques used for tuning biomechanical properties of hydrogels is further compared. Such techniques involve lithography techniques for replication of tissues with complex mechanical profiles; microfluidic techniques applicable for generating gradients of mechanical properties in hydrogel biomaterials for engineering complex human tissues like intervertebral discs, osteochondral tissues, blood vessels and skin layers; and electrospinning techniques for synthesis of hybrid hydrogels and highly ordered fibers with tunable mechanical and biological properties. We finally discuss future perspectives and challenges for controlling biomimetic hydrogel materials possessing proper biomechanical properties.


Hydrogels biomaterials are essential constituting components of engineered tissues with the applications in regenerative medicine and drug delivery. The mechanical properties of hydrogels play crucial roles in regulating the interactions between cells and extracellular matrix and directing the cells phenotype and genotype. Despite significant advances in developing methods and techniques with the ability of tuning the biomechanical properties of hydrogels, there are still challenges regarding the synthesis of hydrogels with complex mechanical profiles as well as limitations in vascularization and patterning of complex structures of natural tissues which barricade the production of sophisticated organs. Therefore, in addition to a review on advanced methods and techniques for measuring a variety of different biomechanical characteristics of hydrogels, the new techniques for enhancing the biomechanics of hydrogels are presented. It is expected that this review will profit future works for regulating the biomechanical properties of hydrogel biomaterials to satisfy the demands of a variety of different human tissues.


Hydrogel biomaterials; Mechanical gradients; Mechanical properties; Tissue engineering

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