Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 7 - 2014

Ovijit Chaudhuri, Mechanical Engineering
Yan Xia, Chemistry
Manish Butte, no longer at Stanford

Hydrogels are soft water-containing polymer networks that have been used extensively to mimic the tissue microenvironment of cells for biological studies of cells in the lab, and to locally deliver drugs or cells to promote tissue regeneration. Despite this great interest, hydrogels exhibit significant limitations, as key cell behaviors such as cell migration or cell proliferation are inhibited when cells are placed within hydrogels. We have recently found that modulating the viscoelasticity, or the malleability, of alginate hydrogels has a potent effect on a key cell behaviors including cell proliferation and stem cell differentiation. Here we propose to develop hyaluronic acid based hydrogels in which the viscoelasticity can be tuned, and test the effect of this on stem cell differentiation and the migration of immune cells. As hyaluronic acid is a key component of many tissues in our body, the successful completion of this work will introduce a biocompatible material that can be used to mimic the cartilage and brain tissue within the lab and for the regeneration of damaged cartilage and bone.