Creating Physicochemical Gradients in Modular Microporous Annealed Particle Hydrogels via a Microfluidic Method. Academic Article uri icon


  • Microporous annealed particle (MAP) hydrogels are an attractive platform for engineering biomaterials with controlled heterogeneity. Here, we introduce a microfluidic method to create physicochemical gradients within poly(ethylene glycol) based MAP hydrogels. By combining microfluidic mixing and droplet generator modules, microgels with varying properties were produced by adjusting the relative flow rates between two precursor solutions and collected layer-by-layer in a syringe. Subsequently, the microgels were injected out of the syringe and then annealed with thiol-ene click chemistry. Fluorescence intensity measurements of constructs annealed in vitro and after mock implantation into a tissue defect showed that a continuous gradient profile was achieved and maintained after injection, indicating utility for in situ hydrogel formation. The effects of physicochemical property gradients on human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) were also studied. Microgel stiffness was studied first, and the hMSCs exhibited increased spreading and proliferation as stiffness increased along the gradient. Microgel degradability was also studied, revealing a critical degradability threshold above which the hMSCs spread robustly and below which they were isolated and exhibited reduced spreading. This method of generating spatial gradients in MAP hydrogels could be further used to gain new insights into cell-material interactions, which could be leveraged for tissue engineering applications. A new droplet microfluidic approach to obtain microporous annealed particle hydrogels with physicochemical gradients is presented. Gradient formation is achieved by precisely controlling the mixing of two precursor solutions, and the gradient can be maintained after injection. This approach can be leveraged to produce new materials for tissue repair and to gain unique insights on cell-material interactions.

published proceedings

  • Adv Funct Mater

altmetric score

  • 4.2

author list (cited authors)

  • Xin, S., Dai, J., Gregory, C. A., Han, A., & Alge, D. L.

citation count

  • 40

complete list of authors

  • Xin, Shangjing||Dai, Jing||Gregory, Carl A||Han, Arum||Alge, Daniel L

publication date

  • February 2020