Two-phase bioreactor system for cell-laden hydrogel assembly



Bottom-up approach is a potentially useful tool for hydrogel assembly of cell-laden individual building blocks. In this article, we assembled individual building blocks of photocrosslinkable microgels in a rapid and controlled manner. Individual building blocks of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) microgels with square and hexagonal shapes were fabricated by using a photolithography technique. Individual building blocks of PEG microgels were assembled on a hydrophobic mineral oil phase in a bioreactor with a magnetic stirrer. The hydrophobic mineral oil minimized the surface free energy to assemble hydrophilic PEG microgels on a two-phase oil-aqueous solution interface. We used the hydrophobic effect as a driving force for the hydrogel assembly. Various types of the hydrogel assembly were generated by controlling the stirring rate. As stirring speed increased, the percentage of linear, branched, and closely packed hydrogel assembly was increased. However, the percentage of random assembly was reduced by increasing stirring rate. The stirring time also played an important role in controlling the types of hydrogel assembly. The percentage of linear, branched, and closely packed hydrogel assembly was improved by increasing stirring time. Therefore, we performed directed cell-laden hydrogel assembly using a two-phase bioreactor system and optimized the stirring rate and time to regulate the desired types of hydrogel assembly. Furthermore, we analyzed cell viability of hydrogel linear assembly with square shapes, showing highly viable even after secondary photocrosslinking reaction. This bioreactor system-based hydrogel assembly could be a potentially powerful approach for creating tissue microarchitectures in a three-dimensional manner. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2011