A poly(ethylene glycol)-b-poly(l-alanine) (PEG-l-PA) hydrogel incorporating tonsil-derived mesenchymal stem cells (TMSCs), tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), and fibroblast growth factor 4 (FGF4) was prepared through thermal gelation of an aqueous polymer solution for an injectable tissue engineering application. The thermal gelation accompanied conformational changes of both PA and PEG blocks. The gel modulus at 37 °C was controlled to be 1000 Pa by using a 14.0 wt % aqueous polymer solution. The gel preserved its physical integrity during the 3D culture of the cells. TUDCA, HGF, and FGF4 were released from the PEG-l-PA hydrogel over 21 days of the 3D cell culture period. TMSCs initially exhibited a spherical shape, whereas some fibers protruded from the cells on days 14-21 of 3D culture. The injectable system exhibited pronounced expressions of the hepatic biomarkers at both mRNA and protein levels, which are significantly better than the commercially available hyaluronic acid gel. In particular, the hepatogenically differentiated cells from the TMSCs in the injectable system demonstrated hepatic biofunctions comparable to HepG2 cells for the uptakes of low density lipoproteins (52%) and indocyanine green (76%), and the production of albumin (40%) and urea (52%), which are also significantly better than the 3D-cultured cells in the commercially available hyaluronic acid gel. Our studies suggest that the PEG-l-PA thermogel incorporating TMSCs, TUDCA, and growth factors is highly promising as an in situ forming tissue engineering system.
- 3D culture
- hepatogenic differentiation
- injectable tissue engineering