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The generation of 3-D tissue models based on hyaluronan hydrogel-coated microcarriers within a rotating wall vessel bioreactor

Aleksander Skardal, Shameema F. Sarker, Aurélie Crabbé, Cheryl A. Nickerson, Glenn D. Prestwich


With the increasing necessity for functional tissue- and organ equivalents in the clinic, the optimization of techniques for the in vitro generation of organotypic structures that closely resemble the native tissue is of paramount importance. The engineering of a variety of highly differentiated tissues has been achieved using the rotating wall vessel (RWV) bioreactor technology, which is an optimized suspension culture allowing cells to grow in three-dimensions (3-D). However, certain cell types require the use of scaffolds, such as collagen-coated microcarrier beads, for optimal growth and differentiation in the RWV. Removal of the 3-D structures from the microcarriers involves enzymatic treatment, which disrupts the delicate 3-D architecture and makes it inapplicable for potential implantation. Therefore, we designed a microcarrier bead coated with a synthetic extracellular matrix (ECM) composed of a disulfide-crosslinked hyaluronan and gelatin hydrogel for 3-D tissue engineering, that allows for enzyme-free cell detachment under mild reductive conditions (i.e. by a thiol-disulfide exchange reaction). The ECM-coated beads (ECB) served as scaffold to culture human intestinal epithelial cells (Int-407) in the RWV, which formed viable multi-layered cell aggregates and expressed epithelial differentiation markers. The cell aggregates remained viable following dissociation from the microcarriers, and could be returned to the RWV bioreactor for further culturing into bead-free tissue assemblies. The developed ECBs thus offer the potential to generate scaffold-free 3-D tissue assemblies, which could further be explored for tissue replacement and remodeling.

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