Characterization of Glycidyl Methacrylate – Crosslinked Hyaluronan Hydrogel Scaffolds Incorporating Elastogenic Hyaluronan Oligomers

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Acta Biomaterialia


Prior studies on two-dimensional cell cultures suggest that hyaluronic acid (HA) stimulates cell-mediated regeneration of extracellular matrix structures, specifically those containing elastin, though such biologic effects are dependent on HA fragment size. Towards being able to regenerate three-dimensional (3-D) elastic tissue constructs, the present paper studies photo-crosslinked hydrogels containing glycidyl methacrylate (GM)-derivatized bio-inert high molecular weight (HMW) HA (1 × 106 Da) and a bioactive HA oligomer mixture (HA-o: MW ∼0.75 kDa). The mechanical (rheology, degradation) and physical (apparent crosslinking density, swelling ratio) properties of the gels varied as a function of incorporated HA oligomer content; however, overall, the mechanics of these hydrogels were too weak for vascular applications as stand-alone materials. Upon in vivo subcutaneous implantation, only a few inflammatory cells were evident around GM-HA gels, however their number increased as HA-o content within the gels increased, and the collagen I distribution was uniform. Smooth muscle cells (SMC) were encapsulated into GM hydrogels, and calcein acetoxymethyl detection revealed that the cells were able to endure twofold the level of UV exposure used to crosslink the gels. After 21 days of culture, SMC elastin production, measured by immunofluorescence quantification, showed HA-o to increase cellular deposition of elastic matrix twofold relative to HA-o-free GM-HA gels. These results demonstrate that cell response to HA/HA-o is not altered by their methacrylation and photo-crosslinking into a hydrogel, and that HA-o incorporation into cell-encapsulating hydrogel scaffolds can be useful for enhancing their production of elastic matrix structures in a 3-D space, important for regenerating elastic tissues. © 2010 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.