Poly(ethylene glycol)-Mediated Collagen Gel Mechanics Regulates Cellular Phenotypes in a Microchanneled Matrix

Max H. Rich, Min Kyung Lee, William C. Ballance, Marni Boppart, Hyunjoon Kong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For the past few decades, efforts have been extensively made to reproduce tissue of interests for various uses including fundamental bioscience studies, clinical treatments, and even soft robotic systems. In these studies, cells are often cultured in micropores introduced in a provisional matrix despite that bulk rigidity may negatively affect cellular differentiation involved in tissue formation. To this end, we hypothesized that suspending cells within a soft fibrous matrix that is encapsulated within the microchannels of a provisional matrix would allow us to mediate effects of the matrix rigidity on cells and, in turn, to increase the cell differentiation level. We examined this hypothesis by filling microchannels interpenetrating alginate matrices with collagen gels of controlled elastic moduli (i.e., 125 to 1 Pa). Myoblasts used as a model predifferentiated cell were suspended within the collagen gels. The elastic modulus of the collagen gels was decreased through the addition of poly(ethylene glycol) during the gel preparation. Myoblasts loaded in the collagen gel exhibited a higher myogenic differentiation level than those adhered to the collagen-coated microchannel wall. Furthermore, the collagen gel softened by poly(ethylene glycol) further increased the volume of the multinucleated myofibers. The role of collagen gel softness on cell differentiation became more significant when the bulk elastic modulus of the alginate matrix was tuned to be close to that of muscle tissue (i.e., 11 kPa). We believe that the results of this study would be useful to understanding phenotypic activities of a wide array of cells involved in tissue development and regeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2315-2323
Number of pages9
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 14 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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