Bioinspired Sandcastle Worm-Derived Peptide-Based Hybrid Hydrogel for Promoting the Formation of Liver Spheroids

Yu Hsu Chen, Yuan Hao Ku, Kuo Cheng Wang, Hung Chi Chiang, Yu Pao Hsu, Ming Te Cheng, Ching Shuen Wang, Yinshen Wee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The generation of hepatic spheroids is beneficial for a variety of potential applications, including drug development, disease modeling, transplantation, and regenerative medicine. Natural hydrogels are obtained from tissues and have been widely used to promote the growth, differentiation, and retention of specific functionalities of hepatocytes. However, relying on natural hydrogels for the generation of hepatic spheroids, which have batch to batch variations, may in turn limit the previously mentioned potential applications. For this reason, we researched a way to establish a three-dimensional (3D) culture system that more closely mimics the interaction between hepatocytes and their surrounding microenvironments, thereby potentially offering a more promising and suitable system for drug development, disease modeling, transplantation, and regenerative medicine. Here, we developed self-assembling and bioactive hybrid hydrogels to support the generation and growth of hepatic spheroids. Our hybrid hydrogels (PC4/Cultrex) inspired by the sandcastle worm, an Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) cell adhesion sequence, and bioactive molecules derived from Cultrex BME (Basement Membrane Extract). By performing optimizations to the design, the PC4/Cultrex hybrid hydrogels can enhance HepG2 cells to form spheroids and express their molecular signatures (e.g., Cyp3A4, Cyp7a1, A1at, Afp, Ck7, Ck1, and E-cad). Our study demonstrated that this hybrid hydrogel system offers potential advantages for hepatocytes in proliferating, differentiating, and self-organizing to form hepatic spheroids in a more controllable and reproducible manner. In addition, it is a versatile and cost-effective method for 3D tissue cultures in mass quantities. Importantly, we demonstrate that it is feasible to adapt a bioinspired approach to design biomaterials for 3D culture systems, which accelerates the design of novel peptide structures and broadens our research choices on peptide-based hydrogels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number149
JournalGels
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Keywords

  • 3D culture
  • Hepatic differentiation
  • Hepatic spheroids
  • Hybrid hydrogel
  • Improved hepatic function
  • Liver regeneration
  • Peptide-based hydrogel
  • RGD hydrogel
  • Sandcastle worm adhesive proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics

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