Biocompliant Composite Au/pHEMA Plasmonic Scaffolds for 3D Cell Culture and Noninvasive Sensing of Cellular Metabolites

Sean E. Lehman, Joselle M. McCracken, Lou Ann Miller, Sanjaya Jayalath, Ralph G. Nuzzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The field of 3D printing is an area of active research, with a substantial focus given to the design and construction of customized tools for applications in technology. There exists a particular need in these developing areas of opportunity for new multi-functional soft materials that are biologically compatible for the growth and directed culturing of cells. Herein, a composite material consisting of gold nanoparticles with useful plasmonic properties embedded within a highly hydrophilic poly-2-hydroxyethylmethacrylate matrix is described and characterized. This composite material serves dual functions as both host framework scaffold for cell lines such as pre-osteoblasts as well as a plasmonic biosensor for in situ measurements of living cells. The plasmonic properties of this system are characterized as a function of the material properties and related to compositional features of the material through a proposed light-directed mechanism. This chemistry provides a tunable, 3D printable plasmonic composite material of encapsulated gold nanoparticles in a biologically-compliant, acrylate-based hydrogel matrix. Surface-enhanced Raman scattering studies of 3D-microcultures supported by the scaffolds are carried out and the strong influence of perm-selective molecular diffusion in its analytical responses is established. Most notably, specific, largely hydrophilic, cellular metabolites are detected within the supported live cultures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2001040
JournalAdvanced Healthcare Materials
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 17 2021


  • 3D printing
  • SERS
  • bio-compliant
  • biomimetics
  • gels
  • plasmonic sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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