Disulfide-Based Diblock Copolymer Worm Gels: A Wholly-Synthetic Thermoreversible 3D Matrix for Sheet-Based Cultures
Warren, Nicholas J.
Mohammady, Marym R.
Armes, Steven P.
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CitationSimon, Karen A., Nicholas J. Warren, Bobak Mosadegh, Marym R. Mohammady, George M. Whitesides, and Steven P. Armes. 2015. “Disulfide-Based Diblock Copolymer Worm Gels: A Wholly-Synthetic Thermoreversible 3D Matrix for Sheet-Based Cultures.” Biomacromolecules 16 (12) (December 14): 3952–3958. doi:10.1021/acs.biomac.5b01266.
AbstractIt is well-known that 3D in vitro cell cultures provide a much better model than 2D cell cultures for understanding the in vivo microenvironment of cells. However, significant technical challenges in handling and analyzing 3D cell cultures remain, which currently limits their widespread application. Herein, we demonstrate the application of wholly synthetic thermoresponsive block copolymer worms in sheet-based 3D cell culture. These worms form a soft, free-standing gel reversibly at 20–37 °C, which can be rapidly converted into a free-flowing dispersion of spheres on cooling to 5 °C. Functionalization of the worms with disulfide groups was found to be essential for ensuring sufficient mechanical stability of these hydrogels to enable long-term cell culture. These disulfide groups are conveniently introduced via statistical copolymerization of a disulfide-based dimethacrylate under conditions that favor intramolecular cyclization and subsequent thiol/disulfide exchange leads to the formation of reversible covalent bonds between adjacent worms within the gel. This new approach enables cells to be embedded within micrometer-thick slabs of gel with good viability, permits cell culture for at least 12 days, and facilitates recovery of viable cells from the gel simply by incubating the culture in buffer at 4 °C (thus, avoiding the enzymatic degradation required for cell harvesting when using commercial protein-based gels, such as Matrigel).
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