All Publications

  • Gradient hydrogels for screening stiffness effects on patient-derived glioblastoma xenograft cellfates in 3D. Journal of biomedical materials research. Part A Zhu, D. n., Trinh, P. n., Li, J. n., Grant, G. n., Yang, F. n. 2020


    Brain cancer is a devastating disease given its extreme invasiveness and intricate location. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is one of the most common forms of brain cancer, andcancer progression is often correlated with significantly altered tissue stiffness. To elucidate the effect of matrix stiffness on GBM cell fates, previous research is largely limited to 2D studies using immortalized cell lines, which has limited physiological relevance. The objective of the study is to develop gradient hydrogels with brain-mimicking stiffness range as a 3Din vitroGBM model for screening of the effects of matrix stiffness on GBM. To increase the physiological relevance, patient-derived tumor xenograft (PDTX) GBM cells were used. Our gradient platform allows formation of cell-containing hydrogels with stiffness ranging from 40 Pa to 1300 Pa within a few minutes. By focusing on a brain-mimicking stiffness range, this gradient hydrogel platform is designed for investigating brain cancer. Increasing stiffness led to decreased GBMproliferation and less spreading, which is accompanied bydownregulation of matrix-metalloproteinases (MMPs). Using temozolomide(TMZ) as a model drug, we demonstrate that increasing stiffness led to higher drug resistance by PDTX GBM cells in 3D, suggesting matrix stiffness can directly modulate how GBM cells respond to drug treatment. While the current study focuses on stiffness gradient, the set upmay also be adapted for screening othercancer niche cues such as how biochemical ligand gradientmodulatesbrain cancer progression and drug responses using reduced materials and time. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/jbm.a.37093

    View details for PubMedID 32862485

  • Biochemical and Mechanical Gradients Synergize To Enhance Cartilage Zonal Organization in 3D ACS BIOMATERIALS SCIENCE & ENGINEERING Zhu, D., Trinh, P., Liu, E., Yang, F. 2018; 4 (10): 3561–69
  • Biochemical and Mechanical Gradients Synergize To Enhance Cartilage Zonal Organization in 3D. ACS biomaterials science & engineering Zhu, D. n., Trinh, P. n., Liu, E. n., Yang, F. n. 2018; 4 (10): 3561–69


    Articular cartilage is characterized by zonal organizations containing dual gradients of biochemical cues and mechanical cues. However, how biochemical gradient interacts with the mechanical gradient to drive the cartilage zonal development remains largely unknown. Here, we report the development of a dual-gradient hydrogel platform as a 3D niche to elucidate the relative contributions of biochemical and mechanical niche gradients in modulating zonal-specific chondrocyte responses and cartilage zonal organization. Chondroitin sulfate (CS), a major constituent of cartilage extracellular matrix, was chosen as the biochemical cue. Poly(ethylene glycol), a bioinert polymer, was used to create the stiffness gradient. Dual-gradient hydrogels upregulated cartilage marker expressions and increased chondrocyte proliferation and collagen deposition in a zonal-dependent manner. Hydrogels with CS gradient alone exhibited poor mechanical strength and degraded prematurely after 1 week of culture. While CS gradient alone did not support long-term culture, adding CS gradient to mechanical-gradient hydrogels substantially enhanced cell proliferation, glycosaminoglycan production, and collagen deposition compared to mechanical-gradient hydrogels alone. These results suggest that biochemical and mechanical gradient cues synergize to enhance cartilage zonal organization by chondrocytes in 3D. Together, our results validate the potential of dual-gradient hydrogels as a 3D cell niche for cartilage regeneration with zonal organization and may be used to recreate other tissue interfaces.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.8b00775

    View details for PubMedID 33465918

  • Mimicking Cartilage Tissue Zonal Organization by Engineering Tissue-scale Gradient Hydrogels as 3D Cell Niche. Tissue engineering. Part A Zhu, D., Tong, X., Trinh, P., Yang, F. 2017


    Zonal organization plays an important role in cartilage structure and function, whereas most tissue-engineering strategies developed to date have only allowed the regeneration of cartilage with homogeneous biochemical and mechanical cues. To better restore tissue structure and function, there is a strong need to engineer materials with biomimetic gradient niche cues that recapitulate native tissue organization. To address this critical unmet need, here we report a method for rapid formation of tissue-scale gradient hydrogels as a 3D cell niche with tunable biochemical and physical properties. When encapsulated in stiffness gradient hydrogels, both chondrocytes and mesenchymal stem cells demonstrated zonal-specific response and extracellular deposition that mimics zonal organization of articular cartilage. Blocking cell mechanosensing using blebbistatin abolished the zonal response of chondrocytes in 3D hydrogels with a stiffness gradient. Such tissue scale gradient hydrogels can provide a 3D artificial cell niche to enable tissue engineering of various tissue types with zonal organizations or tissue interfaces.

    View details for DOI 10.1089/ten.TEA.2016.0453

    View details for PubMedID 28385124

  • Elastin-like protein-hyaluronic acid (ELP-HA) hydrogels with decoupled mechanical and biochemical cues for cartilage regeneration. Biomaterials Zhu, D., Wang, H., Trinh, P., Heilshorn, S. C., Yang, F. 2017


    Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a major component of cartilage extracellular matrix and is an attractive material for use as 3D injectable matrices for cartilage regeneration. While previous studies have shown the promise of HA-based hydrogels to support cell-based cartilage formation, varying HA concentration generally led to simultaneous changes in both biochemical cues and stiffness. How cells respond to the change of biochemical content of HA remains largely unknown. Here we report an adaptable elastin-like protein-hyaluronic acid (ELP-HA) hydrogel platform using dynamic covalent chemistry, which allows variation of HA concentration without affecting matrix stiffness. ELP-HA hydrogels were created through dynamic hydrazone bonds via the reaction between hydrazine-modified ELP (ELP-HYD) and aldehyde-modified HA (HA-ALD). By tuning the stoichiometric ratio of aldehyde groups to hydrazine groups while maintaining ELP-HYD concentration constant, hydrogels with variable HA concentration (1.5%, 3%, or 5%) (w/v) were fabricated with comparable stiffness. To evaluate the effects of HA concentration on cell-based cartilage regeneration, chondrocytes were encapsulated within ELP-HA hydrogels with varying HA concentration. Increasing HA concentration led to a dose-dependent increase in cartilage-marker gene expression and enhanced sGAG deposition while minimizing undesirable fibrocartilage phenotype. The use of adaptable protein hydrogels formed via dynamic covalent chemistry may be broadly applicable as 3D scaffolds with decoupled niche properties to guide other desirable cell fates and tissue repair.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2017.02.010

    View details for PubMedID 28268018

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