One of the major challenges in regenerative medicine is the ability to recreate the stem cell niche, which is defined by its signaling molecules, the creation of cytokine gradients, and the modulation of matrix stiffness. A wide range of scaffolds has been developed in order to recapitulate the stem cell niche, among them hydrogels. This paper reports the development of a new silk–alginate based hydrogel with a focus on stem cell culture. This biocomposite allows to fine tune its elasticity during cell culture, addressing the importance of mechanotransduction during stem cell differentiation. The silk–alginate scaffold promotes adherence of mouse embryonic stem cells and cell survival upon transplantation. In addition, it has tunable stiffness as function of the silk–alginate ratio and the concentration of crosslinker – a characteristic that is very hard to accomplish in current hydrogels.

The hydrogel and the presented results represents key steps on the way of creating artificial stem cell niche, opening up new paths in regenerative medicine.

A tunable silk–alginate hydrogel scaffold for stem cell culture and transplantation

This paper was originally published in Biomaterials 35, 3736–3743.

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