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Hydrogels with Reversible Mechanics to Probe Dynamic Cell Microenvironments



Adrianne Rosales, Sebastain Vega, Frank W. DelRio, Jason Burdick, Kristi S. Anseth


The relationship between ECM mechanics and cell behavior is dynamic, as cells remodel and respond to changes in their local environment. Most in vitro substrates are static and supraphysiologically stiff; thus, platforms with dynamic and reversible mechanical changes are needed. Here, we developed hyaluronic acid-based substrates capable of sequential photodegradation and photoinitiated crosslinking reactions to "soften" and then "stiffen" the hydrogels over a physiologically-relevant range of moduli. Reversible mechanical signaling to adhered cells was demonstrated with human mesenchymal stem cells. In situ hydrogel softening (from 14 to 3.5 kPa) led to a decrease in cell area and nuclear localization of YAP/TAZ, and subsequent stiffening (from 3.5 to 28 kPa) increased cell area and nuclear localization of YAP/TAZ. Each photoreaction was cytocompatible and tunable, rendering this platform amenable to studies of dynamic mechanics on cell behavior across many cell types and contexts.
Angewandte Chemie-International Edition


Hydrogels, ECM Mechanics, Atomic Force Microscopy


Rosales, A. , Vega, S. , DelRio, F. , Burdick, J. and Anseth, K. (2017), Hydrogels with Reversible Mechanics to Probe Dynamic Cell Microenvironments, Angewandte Chemie-International Edition, [online],, (Accessed May 18, 2024)


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Created October 3, 2017, Updated October 12, 2021