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Engineering Gels with Time-Evolving Viscoelasticity

Department of Information Engineering, University of Pisa, Via Girolamo Caruso 16, 56122 Pisa, Italy
Research Centre “E. Piaggio”, University of Pisa, Largo Lucio Lazzarino 1, 56122 Pisa, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to the work.
Materials 2020, 13(2), 438;
Received: 18 November 2019 / Revised: 13 January 2020 / Accepted: 14 January 2020 / Published: 16 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Materials)
From a mechanical point of view, a native extracellular matrix (ECM) is viscoelastic. It also possesses time-evolving or dynamic behaviour, since pathophysiological processes such as ageing alter their mechanical properties over time. On the other hand, biomaterial research on mechanobiology has focused mainly on the development of substrates with varying stiffness, with a few recent contributions on time- or space-dependent substrate mechanics. This work reports on a new method for engineering dynamic viscoelastic substrates, i.e., substrates in which viscoelastic parameters can change or evolve with time, providing a tool for investigating cell response to the mechanical microenvironment. In particular, a two-step (chemical and enzymatic) crosslinking strategy was implemented to modulate the viscoelastic properties of gelatin hydrogels. First, gels with different glutaraldehyde concentrations were developed to mimic a wide range of soft tissue viscoelastic behaviours. Then their mechanical behaviour was modulated over time using microbial transglutaminase. Typically, enzymatically induced mechanical alterations occurred within the first 24 h of reaction and then the characteristic time constant decreased although the elastic properties were maintained almost constant for up to seven days. Preliminary cell culture tests showed that cells adhered to the gels, and their viability was similar to that of controls. Thus, the strategy proposed in this work is suitable for studying cell response and adaptation to temporal variations of substrate mechanics during culture. View Full-Text
Keywords: viscoelasticity; dynamic mechanical properties; transglutaminase; ageing viscoelasticity; dynamic mechanical properties; transglutaminase; ageing
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MDPI and ACS Style

Mattei, G.; Cacopardo, L.; Ahluwalia, A. Engineering Gels with Time-Evolving Viscoelasticity. Materials 2020, 13, 438.

AMA Style

Mattei G, Cacopardo L, Ahluwalia A. Engineering Gels with Time-Evolving Viscoelasticity. Materials. 2020; 13(2):438.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Mattei, Giorgio, Ludovica Cacopardo, and Arti Ahluwalia. 2020. "Engineering Gels with Time-Evolving Viscoelasticity" Materials 13, no. 2: 438.

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