• hydrogels;
  • scaffold;
  • charge density;
  • cell proliferation;
  • mechanical strength;
  • tissue engineering


Tough triple network (TN) hydrogels that facilitate cell spreading and proliferation and, at the same time, preserve high mechanical strength are synthesized by the introduction of a proper component of negatively charged moiety, poly(2-acrylamido-2-methyl-propane sulfonic acid sodium salt) (PNaAMPS), on which cells proliferate, with neutral moiety, poly(N,N-dimethylacrylamide) (DMAAm), on which cells do not proliferate, as the third network component, to PNaAMPS/PDMAAm double network (DN) gels. For synthesizing the tough TN gels to support cell viability, the effect of charge density on the behaviors of three kinds of cells, bovine fetal aorta endothelial cells (BFAECs), human umbilical endothelial cells (HUVECs), and rabbit synovial tissue-derived fibroblast cells (RSTFCs) were systematically investigated on poly(NaAMPS-co-DMAAm) gels with different charge density. The charge density of the gels was tuned by changing the molar fraction (F) of negatively charged monomer in the copolymer hydrogels. Critical F, which corresponds to a critical value of the zeta potential (ζ), is observed for cell spreading and proliferation. The critical F for BFAECs and HUVECs proliferate to confluent is F = 0.4 (ζ = −20 mV), whereas the critical F for RSTFCs shifts to F = 0.7 (ζ = −28.5 mV). The effect of gel charge density on cell behavior is correlated well with the total adsorbed proteins and fibronectin. By applying these results, cell proliferation is successfully realized on the tough TN hydrogels without surface modification with any cell adhesive proteins or peptides. The results will substantially promote the application of tough hydrogels as soft and wet tissues. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res, 2009