A Degrading Approach

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Science  20 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5759, pp. 305
DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5759.305b

Biocompatible scaffolds are used to enhance cell survival and to improve the integration of tissues grown ex vivo and for in vivo implantation. As cells respond to external cues and require nutrients for growth, an ideal environment should be able to adjust dynamically in accordance with their needs.

Mahoney and Anseth have designed a series of polyethylene glycol (PEG) hydrogels in which the cross-links hydrolyze slowly; thus the mesh size increases over several weeks. Neural precursor cells were encapsulated in the hydrogels and followed with confocal microscopy. Cells cultured within this three-dimensional environment grew to form microtissues and were able to proliferate and differentiate into neurons and glial cells. When exposed to the neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid, calcium transients were observed in cells in the interior and exterior of the microtissues and in cell processes. The mechanical strength of the gels is such that they are suitable for injection into tissue, and by changing the degradation rate of the linker, the authors could alter the time scale for neural cell extension from 1 to 3 weeks. — MSL

Biomaterials 27, 2265 (2006).

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