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Keywords:

  • hydrogels;
  • microcontact printing;
  • surface modification;
  • biomedical applications;
  • tissue engineering

Abstract

Soft hydrogels such as alginate are ideal substrates for building muscle in vitro because they have structural and mechanical properties close to the in vivo extracellular matrix (ECM) network. However, hydrogels are generally not amenable to protein adhesion and patterning. Moreover, muscle structures and their underlying ECM are highly anisotropic, and it is imperative that in vitro models recapitulate the structural anisotropy in reconstructed tissues for in vivo relevance due to the tight coupling between sturcture and function in these systems. Two techniques to create chemical and structural heterogeneities within soft alginate substrates are presented and employed to engineer anisotropic muscle monolayers: i) microcontact printing lines of extracellular matrix proteins on flat alginate substrates to guide cellular processes with chemical cues and ii) micromolding of alginate surface into grooves and ridges to guide cellular processes with topographical cues. Neonatal rat ventricular myocytes as well as human umbilical artery vascular smooth muscle cells successfully attach to both these micropatterned substrates leading to subsequent formation of anisotropic striated and smooth muscle tissues. Muscular thin film cantilevers cut from these constructs are then employed for functional characterization of engineered muscular tissues. Thus, micropatterned alginate is an ideal substrate for in vitro models of muscle tissue because it facilitates recapitulation of the anisotropic architecture of muscle, mimics the mechanical properties of the ECM microenvironment, and is amenable to evaluation of functional contractile properties.