Biofunctionalized pectin hydrogels as 3D cellular microenvironments

Sara C. Neves, David B. Gomes, Aureliana Sousa, Silvia J. Bidarra, Paola Petrini, Lorenzo Moroni, Cristina C. Barrias, Pedro L. Granja*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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In situ-forming hydrogels of pectin, a polysaccharide present in the cell wall of higher plants, were prepared using an internal ionotropic gelation strategy based on calcium carbonate/D-glucono-delta-lactone, and explored for the first time as cell delivery vehicles. Since no ultrapure pectins are commercially available yet, a simple and efficient purification method was established, effectively reducing the levels of proteins, polyphenols and endotoxins of the raw pectin. The purified pectin was then functionalized by carbodiimide chemistry with a cell-adhesive peptide (RGD). Its gelation was analyzed by rheometry and optimized. Human mesenchymal stem cells embedded within unmodified and RGD-pectin hydrogels of different viscoelasticities (1.5 and 2.5 wt%) remained viable and metabolically active for up to 14 days. On unmodified pectin hydrogels, cells remained isolated and round-shaped. In contrast, within RGD-pectin hydrogels they elongated, spread, established cell-to-cell contacts, produced extracellular matrix, and migrated outwards the hydrogels. After 7 days of subcutaneous implantation in mice, acellular pectin hydrogels were considerably degraded, particularly the 1.5 wt% hydrogels. Altogether, these findings show the great potential of pectin-based hydrogels, which combine an interesting set of easily tunable properties, including the in vivo degradation profile, for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2096-2108
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry. B, Materials for Biology and Medicine
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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