Modulation of Methacrylated Hyaluronic Acid Hydrogels Enables Their Use as 3D Cultured Model

Gels. 2023 Oct 5;9(10):801. doi: 10.3390/gels9100801.


Bioengineered hydrogels represent physiologically relevant platforms for cell behaviour studies in the tissue engineering and regenerative medicine fields, as well as in in vitro disease models. Hyaluronic acid (HA) is an ideal platform since it is a natural biocompatible polymer that is widely used to study cellular crosstalk, cell adhesion and cell proliferation, and is one of the major components of the extracellular matrix (ECM). We synthesised chemically modified HA with photo-crosslinkable methacrylated groups (HA-MA) in aqueous solutions and in strictly monitored pH and temperature conditions to obtain hydrogels with controlled bulk properties. The physical and chemical properties of the different HA-MA hydrogels were investigated via rheological studies, mechanical testing and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) imaging, which allowed us to determine the optimal biomechanical properties and develop a biocompatible scaffold. The morphological evolution processes and proliferation rates of glioblastoma cells (U251-MG) cultured on HA-MA surfaces were evaluated by comparing 2D structures with 3D structures, showing that the change in dimensionality impacted cell functions and interactions. The cell viability assays and evaluation of mitochondrial metabolism showed that the hydrogels did not interfere with cell survival. In addition, morphological studies provided evidence of cell-matrix interactions that promoted cell budding from the spheroids and the invasiveness in the surrounding environment.

Keywords: glioblastoma; hyaluronic acid methacrylate; hydrogel; tumour microenvironment.