Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE

Generation and recovery of β-cell spheroids from step-growth PEG-peptide hydrogels.

PMID 23241531


Hydrogels are hydrophilic crosslinked polymers that provide a three-dimensional microenvironment with tissue-like elasticity and high permeability for culturing therapeutically relevant cells or tissues. Hydrogels prepared from poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) derivatives are increasingly used for a variety of tissue engineering applications, in part due to their tunable and cytocompatible properties. In this protocol, we utilized thiol-ene step-growth photopolymerizations to fabricate PEG-peptide hydrogels for encapsulating pancreatic MIN6 b-cells. The gels were formed by 4-arm PEG-norbornene (PEG4NB) macromer and a chymotrypsin-sensitive peptide crosslinker (CGGYC). The hydrophilic and non-fouling nature of PEG offers a cytocompatible microenvironment for cell survival and proliferation in 3D, while the use of chymotrypsin-sensitive peptide sequence (CGGY↓C, arrow indicates enzyme cleavage site, while terminal cysteine residues were added for thiol-ene crosslinking) permits rapid recovery of cell constructs forming within the hydrogel. The following protocol elaborates techniques for: (1) Encapsulation of MIN6 β-cells in thiol-ene hydrogels; (2) Qualitative and quantitative cell viability assays to determine cell survival and proliferation; (3) Recovery of cell spheroids using chymotrypsin-mediated gel erosion; and (4) Structural and functional analysis of the recovered spheroids.