Fabrication and Mechanical Evaluation of Anatomically-Inspired Quasilaminate Hydrogel Structures with Layer-Specific Formulations
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A major tissue engineering challenge is the creation of multilaminate scaffolds with layer-specific mechanical properties representative of native tissues, such as heart valve leaflets, blood vessels, and cartilage. For this purpose, poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogels are attractive materials due to their tunable mechanical and biological properties. This study explored the fabrication of trilayer hydrogel quasilaminates. A novel sandwich method was devised to create quasilaminates with layers of varying stiffnesses. The trilayer structure was comprised of two “stiff” outer layers and one “soft” inner layer. Tensile testing of bilayer quasilaminates demonstrated that these scaffolds do not fail at the interface. Flexural testing showed that the bending modulus of acellular quasilaminates fell between the bending moduli of the “stiff” and “soft” hydrogel layers. The bending modulus and swelling of trilayer scaffolds with the same formulations were not significantly different than single layer gels of the same formulation. The encapsulation of cells and the addition of phenol red within the hydrogel layers decreased bending modulus of the trilayer scaffolds. The data presented demonstrates that this fabrication method can make quasilaminates with robust interfaces, integrating layers of different mechanical properties and biofunctionalization, and thus forming the foundation for a multilaminate scaffold that more accurately represents native tissue.