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Flowable Polyethylene Glycol Hydrogels Support the in Vitro Survival and Proliferation of Dermal Progenitor Cells in a Mechanically Dependent Manner

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posted on 19.12.2018, 00:00 by Holly D. Sparks, Fraz Anjum, Queralt Vallmajo-Martin, Martin Ehrbar, Sepideh Abbasi, Michael S. Kallos, Jeff Biernaskie
Cell-based therapies have garnered considerable interest largely because of their potential utility for tissue regeneration in a variety of organs, including skin. Designing vehicles that enable optimal delivery and purposeful integration of donor cells within tissues will be critical for their success. Here, we investigate the utility of an injectable, self-polymerizing, fully synthetic hydrogel in supporting the survival, proliferation, and function of cultured adult dermal progenitor cells (DPCs) which may serve as a source of renewable cells to repair severe skin injuries or restore hair growth. We show that modifying the stiffness of these transglutaminase cross-linked poly­(ethylene glycol) (TG-PEG) hydrogels significantly alters DPC behavior and phenotype; increasing stiffness promotes their differentiation and migration whereas softer gels maintained them in a proliferative state. We found that 2–3% TG-PEG was optimal to promote cell expansion and survival. Unexpectedly, DPCs grown in all conditions maintained their inductive function and thus generated de novo hair follicles. Our data suggests that TG-PEG hydrogels may be a versatile platform for stem and progenitor cell transplantation and fate specification while maintaining functional competence.