Microfluidic methods are frequently used to produce cell-laden microgels for various biomedical purposes. Such microfluidic methods generally employ oil-water systems. The poor distribution of crosslinking reagents in the oil phase limits the available gelation strategies. Extracting the microgel from the oil-phase also reduces its production efficiency. In this study, an aqueous two-phase system (ATPS) involving dextran (DEX) and polyethylene glycol (PEG) was used to prepare cell-laden microgel. This avoided the problems associated with an oil phase. The microgel precursor polymers and crosslinking reagents were dispersed in the DEX and PEG phases, respectively. The ultra-low interfacial tension of the ATPS hindered droplet formation. A co-flow microfluidic device was fabricated to overcome this problem. The device incorporated a square-wave-changing injection force, to improve the efficiency of droplet formation. The microgel precursor (including alginate and carboxymethyl cellulose derivatives possessing phenolic hydroxyl moieties) could be dispersed in the DEX solution at various concentrations. Uniform droplets were formed with controllable diameters, and were sequentially converted to microgel by horseradish peroxidase-catalyzed crosslinking. Cells were dispersed in the DEX phase with the microgel precursor polymer, and retained their high viability and proliferation in the resulting microgel. The solubility of gelatin derivatives in the DEX phase was low, but was sufficient to impart cell adhesion properties on the microgel.
Biomedical Microdevices – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 14, 2017
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