Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Chair of Metabolic Biochemistry

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Gelator length precisely tunes supramolecular hydrogel stiffness and neuronal phenotype in 3D culture

ACS Biomater Sci Eng. 2020 Feb 10;6(2):1196-1207.

Authors/Editors: Godbe JM
Freeman R
Burbulla LF
Lewis J
Krainc D
Stupp SI
Publication Date: 2020
Type of Publication: Journal Article

The brain is one of the softest tissues in the body with storage moduli (G') that range from hundreds to thousands of pascals (Pa) depending upon the anatomic region. Furthermore, pathological processes such as injury, aging and disease can cause subtle changes in the mechanical properties throughout the central nervous system. However, these changes in mechanical properties lie within an extremely narrow range of moduli and there is great interest in understanding their effect on neuron biology. We report here the design of supramolecular hydrogels based on anionic peptide amphiphile nanofibers using oligo-L-lysines of different molecular lengths to precisely tune gel stiffness over the range of interest and found that G' increases by 10.5 Pa for each additional lysine monomer in the oligo-L-lysine chain. We found that small changes in storage modulus on the order of 70 Pa significantly affect survival, neurite growth and tyrosine hydroxylase-positive population in dopaminergic neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells. The work reported here offers a strategy to tune mechanical stiffness of hydrogels for use in 3D neuronal cell cultures and transplantation matrices for neural regeneration.

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