Multi-scale structuring of cell-instructive cellulose nanocrystal composite hydrogel sheets via sequential electrospinning and thermal wrinkling
- Additional Document Info
- View All
Structured hydrogel sheets offer the potential to mimic the mechanics and morphology of native cell environments in vitro; however, controlling the morphology of such sheets across multiple length scales to give cells consistent multi-dimensional cues remains challenging. Here, we demonstrate a simple two-step process based on sequential electrospinning and thermal wrinkling to create nanocomposite poly(oligoethylene glycol methacrylate)/cellulose nanocrystal hydrogel sheets with a highly tunable multi-scale wrinkled (micro) and fibrous (nano) morphology. By varying the time of electrospinning, rotation speed of the collector, and geometry of the thermal wrinkling process, the hydrogel nanofiber density, fiber alignment, and wrinkle geometry (biaxial or uniaxial) can be independently controlled. Adhered C2C12 mouse myoblast muscle cells display a random orientation on biaxially wrinkled sheets but an extended morphology (directed preferentially along the wrinkles) on uniaxially wrinkled sheets. While the nanofiber orientation had a smaller effect on cell alignment, parallel nanofibers promoted improved cell alignment along the wrinkle direction while perpendicular nanofibers disrupted alignment. The highly tunable structures demonstrated are some of the most complex morphologies engineered into hydrogels to-date without requiring intensive micro/nanofabrication approaches and offer the potential to precisely regulate cell-substrate interactions in a "2.5D" environment (i.e. a surface with both micro- and nano-structured topographies) for in vitro cell screening or in vivo tissue regeneration. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: While structured hydrogels can mimic the morphology of natural tissues, controlling this morphology over multiple length scales remains challenging. Furthermore, the incorporation of secondary morphologies within individual hydrogels via simple manufacturing techniques would represent a significant advancement in the field of structured biomaterials and an opportunity to study complex cell-biomaterial interactions. Herein, we leverage a two-step process based on electrospinning and thermal wrinkling to prepare structured hydrogels with microscale wrinkles and nanoscale fibers. Fiber orientation/density and wrinkle geometry can be independently controlled during the electrospinning and thermal wrinkling processes respectively, demonstrating the flexibility of this technique for creating well-defined multiscale hydrogel structures. Finally, we show that while wrinkle geometry is the major determinant of cell alignment, nanofiber orientation also plays a role in this process.
has subject area