Regulating myoblast phenotype through controlled gel stiffness and degradation

Tanyarut Boontheekul, Elliott E. Hill, Hyun Joon Kong, David J. Mooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mechanical stiffness and degradability are important material parameters in tissue engineering. The aim of this study was to address the hypothesis that these variables regulate the function of myoblasts cultured in 2-D and 3-D microenvironments. Development of cell-interactive alginate gels with tunable degradation rates and mechanical stiffness was established by a combination of partial oxidation and bimodal molecular weight distribution. Higher gel mechanical properties (13 to 45 kPa) increased myoblast adhesion, proliferation, and differentiation in a 2-D cell culture model. Primary mouse myoblasts were more highly responsive to this cue than the C2C12 myoblast cell line. Myoblasts were then encapsulated in gels varying in degradation rate to simultaneously investigate the effect of degradation and subsequent reduction of mechanical properties on cells in a 3-D environment. C2C12 cells in more rapidly degrading gels exhibited lower proliferation, as they exited the cell cycle to differentiate, compared to those in nondegradable gels. In contrast, mouse primary myoblasts illustrated significantly higher proliferation in degradable gels than in nondegradable gels, and exhibited minimal differentiation in either type of gel. Altogether, these studies suggest that a critical balance between material degradation rate and mechanical properties may be required to regulate formation of engineered skeletal muscle tissue, and that results obtained with the C2C12 cell line may not be predictive of the response of primary myoblasts to environmental cues. The principles delineated in these studies may be useful to tailor smart biomaterials that can be applied to many other polymeric systems and tissue types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1431-1442
Number of pages12
JournalTissue Engineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Cell Biology


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