Photoencapsulation of cells inside a hydrogel system can provide a suitable path to establish a gel in situ for soft tissue regeneration applications. However, the presence of photoinitiators and blue or UV light irradiation can result in cell damage and an increase of reactive oxygen species. We here evaluate the benefits of an antioxidant pretreatment on the photoencapsulated cells. We study this by evaluating proliferation and viability of MG63 cells, which we combined with a gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) hydrogel system, using the photoinitiator, VA-086, cured with 440 nm blue light. We found that blue light irradiation as well as the presence of 1% VA-086 reduced MG63 cell proliferation rates. Adding a short pretreatment step to the MG63 cells, consisting of the antioxidant molecules N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and reduced glutathione (GSH), and optimizing the GelMA encapsulation steps, we found that both NAC and GSH pretreatments of MG63 cells significantly increased both proliferation and viability of the cells, when using a 15% GelMA hydrogel, 1% VA-086, and 1-min blue light exposure. These findings suggest that the use of antioxidant pretreatment can counteract the negative presence of the photoinitiators and blue light exposure and result in a suitable environment for photoencapsulating cells in situ for tissue engineering and soft tissue applications.
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