University of Colorado scientists have developed a robust synthetic strategy for a hydrogel platform utilizing orthogonal click chemistries, one for hydrogel formation and another for biochemical patterning within the preformed material. The hydrogel is formed using macro-molecular precursors that react via a copper-free click chemistry, allowing for the direct encapsulation of cells within click hydrogels for the first time. Subsequently, thiol-ene photocoupling chemistry is used to pattern biological functionalities within the gel in real-time and with micron-scale resolution. The modular aspect of these reactions allows for independent control of the network structure and chemistry, and facile incorporation of biological epitopes.
These types of patterned hydrogels have use in many applications including guiding cell behavior (cell:cell interactions, cell differentiation, cell:material interactions), guiding cell migration (implications in tissue development, tissue repair, etc.), tissue engineering, biosensors and drug delivery systems.
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