Synthesis of stiffness-tunable and cell-responsive Gelatin–poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogel for three-dimensional cell encapsulation

Ye Cao, Bae Hoon Lee, Havazelet Bianco-Peled, Subbu S. Venkatraman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biosynthetic poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-based hydrogels have been extensively investigated as extracellular matrix (ECM) mimicking gels as they retain the benefits of both ECM (biological cues) and synthetic hydrogels (tunable mechanical properties). In this article, we developed and characterized a new gelatin–PEG (GP) hydrogel that retains the benefits of gelatin and synthetic hydrogels. In this strategy, the thiolation of gelatin was accomplished by reacting with Traut's reagent; the thiolated gelatin was then conjugated to one end of PEG diacrylate (PEGDA) by Michael-type addition reaction. Two kinds of GP precursors, GP30 and GP60, were synthesized by changing the amount of Traut's reagent, while the weight ratio between thiolated-gelatin and PEGDA of GP30 and GP60 was 1.451:1 and 0.785:1, respectively. Finally, neonatal human dermal fibroblasts were encapsulated into the hydrogel by cross-linking the remaining double bonds of precursor under ultraviolet light. These GP hydrogels can encapsulate the fibroblasts in situ with high cell viability. Moreover, the behaviors of cells within the GP hydrogels can be modulated by varying the cross-linking density of GP hydrogel (storage modulus from 40 to 2000 Pa). In particular, this article showed that a minimum amount of cell-binding motifs (gelatin >2.30 wt/vol % and 44.0% dry weight percentage) are required for attachment; and appropriate initial rheological and structural properties (storage modulus <∼100 Pa and mesh size >∼150 nm) can accelerate the attachment of cells and improve cell viability. Hence, this mixed-hydrogel platform allows an easily control hydrogel structure and modulates cell behavior to reconstruct new tissue in the three-dimensional microenvironments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2401-2411
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Gelatin
  • cell encapsulation
  • poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogel

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Metals and Alloys


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