(367f) Determining How Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Change Their Degradation Strategy in Response to Microenvironmental Stiffness
AIChE Annual Meeting
Tuesday, November 9, 2021 - 4:45pm to 5:00pm
During the wound healing process, human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) are recruited to an injury where they regulate inflammation and initiate healing and tissue regeneration. To aid in healing, synthetic cell-laden hydrogel scaffolds are being designed to deliver additional hMSCs to wounds to enhance or restart the healing process. These scaffolds are being designed to mimic native tissue environments, which includes the physical cues provided by the microenvironment, such as scaffold stiffness. In this work, we focus on how the initial scaffold stiffness hMSCs are encapsulated in changes cell-mediated remodeling and degradation and motility of the encapsulated cells. To do this, we encapsulate hMSCs in a well-defined synthetic hydrogel scaffold that recapitulates aspects of the native extracellular matrix (ECM). Our hydrogel consists of a 4-arm poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) backbone end-functionalized with norbornene which is chemically cross-linked with a matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) degradable peptide sequence. This peptide sequence is cleaved by hMSC-secreted MMPs. The hydrogel elastic modulus is varied from 80 to 2400 Pa by changing the concentration of the peptide cross-linker. We use multiple particle tracking microrheology (MPT) to characterize the spatio-temporal cell-mediated degradation in the pericellular region. In MPT, fluorescently labeled particles are embedded in the material and their Brownian motion is measured and related to rheological properties using the Generalized Stokes-Einstein Relation. We measure an increase in cell-mediated degradation and remodeling as post-encapsulation time increases. MPT also measures changes in the degradation profile in the pericellular region as hydrogel stiffness is increased. We hypothesize that the change in the degradation profile is due to a change in the amount and type of molecules secreted by hMSCs. We also measure a significant decrease in cell speed as hydrogel stiffness increases due to the increased physical barrier that must be degraded to enable motility. These measurements increase our understanding of the rheological changes in the pericellular region in different physical microenvironments which could lead to better design of implantable biomaterials for cell delivery to wounded areas.