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Exploiting Meltable Protein Hydrogels to Encapsulate and Culture Cells in 3D

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gema Dura, Dr Maria Crespo Cuadrado, Dr Helen WallerORCiD, Dr Daniel PetersORCiD, Dr Ana Ferreira-DuarteORCiD, Professor Jeremy LakeyORCiD, Dr David Fulton



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2022 The Authors. Macromolecular Bioscience published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.There is a growing realization that 3D cell culture better mimics complex in vivo environments than 2D, lessening aberrant cellular behaviors and ultimately improving the outcomes of experiments. Chemically crosslinked hydrogels which imitate natural extracellular matrix (ECM) are proven cell culture platforms, but the encapsulation of cells within these hydrogel networks requires bioorthogonal crosslinking chemistries which can be cytotoxic, synthetically demanding, and costly. Capsular antigen fragment 1 (Caf1) is a bacterial, polymeric, fimbrial protein which can be genetically engineered to imitate ECM. Furthermore, it can, reversibly, thermally interconvert between its polymeric and monomeric forms even when chemically crosslinked within a hydrogel network. It is demonstrated that this meltable feature of Caf1 hydrogels can be utilized to encapsulate neonatal human dermal fibroblasts at a range of cell densities (2 × 105–2 × 106 cells mL−1 of hydrogel) avoiding issues with chemical cytotoxicity. These hydrogels supported cell 3D culture for up to 21 d, successfully inducing cellular functions such as proliferation and migration. This work is significant because it further highlights the potential of simple, robust, Caf1-based hydrogels as a cell culture platform.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dura G, Crespo-Cuadrado M, Waller H, Peters DT, Ferreira-Duarte A, Lakey JH, Fulton DA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Macromolecular Bioscience

Year: 2022

Volume: 22

Issue: 9

Print publication date: 01/09/2022

Online publication date: 03/07/2022

Acceptance date: 03/07/2022

Date deposited: 23/09/2022

ISSN (print): 1616-5187

ISSN (electronic): 1616-5195

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc


DOI: 10.1002/mabi.202200134

PubMed id: 35780498


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