Organ-on-a-chip technology has gained great interest in recent years given its ability to control the spatio-temporal microenvironments of cells and tissues precisely. While physical parameters of the respective niche such as microchannel network sizes, geometric features, flow rates, and shear forces, as well as oxygen tension and concentration gradients, have been optimized for stem cell cultures, little has been done to improve cell-matrix interactions in microphysiological systems. Specifically, detailed research on the effect of matrix elasticity and extracellular matrix (ECM) nanotopography on stem cell differentiation are still in its infancy, an aspect that is known to alter a stem cell’s fate. Although a wide range of hydrogels such as gelatin, collagen, fibrin, and others are available for stem cell chip cultivations, only a limited number of elasticities are generally employed. Matrix elasticity and the corresponding nanotopography are key factors that guide stem cell differentiation. Given this, we investigated the addition of gold nanowires into hydrogels to create a tunable biointerface that could be readily integrated into any organ-on-a-chip and cell chip system. In the presented work, we investigated the matrix elasticity (Young’s modulus, stiffness, adhesive force, and roughness) and nanotopography of gold nanowire loaded onto fibrin hydrogels using the bio-AFM (atomic force microscopy) method. Additionally, we investigated the capacity of human amniotic mesenchymal stem cells (hAMSCs) to differentiate into osteo- and chondrogenic lineages. Our results demonstrated that nanogold structured-hydrogels promoted differentiation of hAMSCs as shown by a significant increase in Collagen I and II production. Additionally, there was enhanced calcium mineralization activity and proteoglycans formation after a cultivation period of two weeks within microfluidic devices.
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