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Cell culture systems for studying the combined effects of matrix proteins and mechanical forces on the behavior of soft tissue cells have not been well developed. Here, we describe a new biomimetic cell culture system that allows for the study of mixtures of matrix proteins while controlling mechanical stiffness in a range that is physiological for soft tissues. This system consists of layer-by-layer (LbL)-assembled films of native matrix proteins atop mechanically tunable soft supports. We used hepatic stellate cells, which differentiate to myofibroblasts in liver fibrosis, for proof-of-concept studies. By culturing cells on collagen and lumican LbL-modified hydrogels, we demonstrate that this system is noncytotoxic and offers a valid control substrate, that the hydrogel determines the overall system mechanics, and that the addition of lumican to collagen influences the stellate cell phenotype. LbL-modified hydrogels offer the potential to study the influence of complex environmental factors on soft-tissue cells in culture.
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lumican, hepatic stellate cell, hydrogel, polyacrylamide, elastic modulus, liver fibrosis, layer-by-layer assembly
Date Posted:18 July 2017
This document has been peer reviewed.