• biomimetic material;
  • epithelial cell;
  • hydrogel;
  • polyethylene glycol;
  • nanotopography


Incorporation of biophysical and biochemical cues into the design of biomaterials is an important strategy for tissue engineering, the design of biomedical implants and cell culture. Hydrogels synthesized from poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) were investigated as a platform to simultaneously present human corneal epithelial cells (HCECs) in vitro with topography and adhesion peptides to mimic the native physical and chemical attributes of the basement membrane underlying the epithelium in vivo. Hydrogels synthesized from aqueous solutions of 20% PEGDA (Mw = 3400 g/mol) prevented nonspecific cell adhesion and were functionalized with the integrin-binding peptide Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) in concentrations from 5 to 20 mM. The hydrogels swelled minimally after curing and were molded with ridge and groove features with lateral dimensions from 200 to 2000 nm and 300-nm depth. HCECs were cultured on topographic surfaces functionalized with RGD and compared with control unfunctionalized topographic substrates. HCEC alignment, either parallel or perpendicular to ridges, was influenced by the culture media on substrates promoting nonspecific attachment. In contrast, the alignment of HCECs cultured on RGD hydrogels showed substantially less dependence on the culture media. In the latter case, the moldable RGD-functionalized hydrogels allowed for decoupling the cues from surface chemistry, soluble factors, and topography that simultaneously impact HCEC behavior. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A, 2013.