Adaptable Fast Relaxing Boronate-Based Hydrogels for Probing Cell–Matrix Interactions

Shengchang Tang, Hao Ma, Hsiu Chung Tu, Huei Ren Wang, Po Chiao Lin, Kristi S. Anseth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hydrogels with tunable viscoelasticity hold promise as materials that can recapitulate many dynamic mechanical properties found in native tissues. Here, covalent adaptable boronate bonds are exploited to prepare hydrogels that exhibit fast relaxation, with relaxation time constants on the order of seconds or less, but are stable for long-term cell culture and are cytocompatible for 3D cell encapsulation. Using human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) as a model, the fast relaxation matrix mechanics are found to promote cell–matrix interactions, leading to spreading and an increase in nuclear volume, and induce yes-associated protein/PDZ binding domain nuclear localization at longer times. All of these effects are exclusively based on the hMSCs' ability to physically remodel their surrounding microenvironment. Given the increasingly recognized importance of viscoelasticity in controlling cell function and fate, it is expected that the synthetic strategies and material platform presented should provide a useful system to study mechanotransduction on and within viscoelastic environments and explore many questions related to matrix biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1800638
JournalAdvanced Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • boronate
  • covalent adaptable networks
  • hydrogels
  • stem cells
  • viscoelasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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