Hydrogel mechanics are a key driver in bioengineering

Hydrogels, a versatile class of biomaterials, play a central role in bioengineering and regenerative medicine. They are a three-dimensional (3D) network of hydrophilic polymers made from natural and synthetic polymers or a combination of both 1,2. Hydrogels’ mechanical properties can be adjusted across a wide range, allowing them to guide cell function and tissue development by mimicking the native ECM, regulating the delivery of biochemical compounds, and providing mechanical stimuli to the 3D cell construct 1. However, variations in hydrogel’s mechanical properties, such as strength, stiffness, density, composition, orientation, and viscoelastic, affect cellular activity 3.
Therefore, the main challenges in using hydrogels include the following:
  • Controlling the cell behavior. 
  • Identifying mechanical triggers to initiate specific cell activities.
  • Creating hydrogels with native tissue-like properties to promote tissue formation 4.

To address the unmet needs in bioengineering, we introduce the Pavone Nanoindenter as a powerful method of mechanical characterization of hydrogels and other biomaterials. Pavone identifies the mechanical properties of hydrogels, the mechanisms by which cells remodel hydrogels, the impact of hydrogel mechanical properties on cell behavior, and the role of mechanical stimulation in cell-seeded hydrogels. Therefore, controlling and understanding the cell–hydrogel mechanic–interactions with Pavone can unlock new therapeutic strategies. 

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References

[1] Blache, U., Ford, E.M., Ha, B. et al. Engineered hydrogels for mechanobiology. Nat Rev Methods Primers 2, 98 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43586-022-00179-7

[2] Jacob S, Nair AB, Shah J, Sreeharsha N, Gupta S, Shinu P. Emerging Role of Hydrogels in Drug Delivery Systems, Tissue Engineering and Wound Management. Pharmaceutics. 2021 Mar 8;13(3):357. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics13030357. PMID: 33800402; PMCID: PMC7999964.

[3] Ahearne M. Introduction to cell-hydrogel mechanosensing. Interface Focus. 2014 Apr 6;4(2):20130038. doi: 10.1098/rsfs.2013.0038. PMID: 24748951; PMCID: PMC3982445.

[4] Geckil H, Xu F, Zhang X, Moon S, Demirci U. Engineering hydrogels as extracellular matrix mimics. Nanomedicine (Lond). 2010 Apr;5(3):469-84. doi: 10.2217/nnm.10.12. PMID: 20394538; PMCID: PMC2892416.

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