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Keywords:

  • microporous;
  • agarose;
  • cell-laden hydrogel;
  • tissue engineering

Abstract

In this article, we describe an approach to generate microporous cell-laden hydrogels for fabricating biomimetic tissue engineered constructs. Micropores at different length scales were fabricated in cell-laden hydrogels by micromolding fluidic channels and leaching sucrose crystals. Microengineered channels were created within cell-laden hydrogel precursors containing agarose solution mixed with sucrose crystals. The rapid cooling of the agarose solution was used to gel the solution and form micropores in place of the sucrose crystals. The sucrose leaching process generated homogeneously distributed micropores within the gels, while enabling the direct immobilization of cells within the gels. We also characterized the physical, mechanical, and biological properties (i.e., microporosity, diffusivity, and cell viability) of cell-laden agarose gels as a function of engineered porosity. The microporosity was controlled from 0% to 40% and the diffusivity of molecules in the porous agarose gels increased as compared to controls. Furthermore, the viability of human hepatic carcinoma cells that were cultured in microporous agarose gels corresponded to the diffusion profile generated away from the microchannels. Based on their enhanced diffusive properties, microporous cell-laden hydrogels containing a microengineered fluidic channel can be a useful tool for generating tissue structures for regenerative medicine and drug discovery applications. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2010; 106: 138–148. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.