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Keywords:

  • substrate rigidity;
  • substrate stiffness;
  • PEGDA;
  • hydrogel;
  • patterning;
  • photolithography

Abstract

The ability of cells to migrate in response to mechanical gradients (durotaxis) and differential cell behavior in adhesion, spreading, and proliferation in response to substrate rigidity are key factors both in tissue engineering, in which materials must be selected to provide the appropriate mechanical signals, and in studies of mechanisms of diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis, in which changes in tissue stiffness may inform cell behavior. Using poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate hydrogels with varying polymer chain length and photolithographic patterning techniques, we are able to provide substrates with spatially patterned, tunable mechanical properties in both gradients and distinct patterns. The hydrogels can be patterned to produce anisotropic structures and exhibit patterned strain under mechanical loading. These hydrogels may be used to study cell response to substrate rigidity in both two and three dimensions and can also be used as a scaffold in tissue-engineering applications. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2010; 105: 636–644. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.