Hydrogels appear to be an attractive class of biomaterial for cartilage tissue engineering due to their high water content, excellent biocompatibility, tunable stiffness, etc. The crosslinking density of the hydrogel can affect their viscoelastic property, and therefore potentially impact the chondrogenic phenotype of re-differentiated chondrocytes in a 3D microenvironment through physical cues. To understand the effect of crosslinking densities on chondrocytes phenotype and cellular interaction with the hydrogel, this study utilized a clinical grade thiolate hyaluronic acid and thiolate gelatin (HA-Gel) hydrogel, crosslinked with poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate to create various crosslinking densities. The HA-Gel hydrogels were then mixed with human nasal chondrocytes to generate neocartilage in vitro. The influence of the hydrogel crosslinking density and the viscoelastic property on the cell behaviours on the gene and matrix levels were evaluated using biochemistry assays, histology, quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and next-generation sequencing (RNA seq). In general, the differences in the storage modulus of the HA-Gel hydrogel are not enough to alter the cartilaginous gene expression of chondrocytes. However, a positively correlated trend of PPAR-γ gene expression to the crosslinking density was measured by qPCR. The RNA-seq results have shown that 178 genes are significantly negatively correlated and 225 genes are positively correlated to the crosslinking density, which is worth investigating in the future studies.
Keywords: 3D bioprinting; Cross-linking; Hydrogels; Nasal cartilage; Transcriptome.
© 2023. The Author(s) under exclusive licence to Biomedical Engineering Society.