Tunable Collagen I Hydrogels for Engineered Physiological Tissue Micro-Environments
Antoine, Elizabeth E.
Vlachos, Pavlos P.
Rylander, Marissa N.
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Collagen I hydrogels are commonly used to mimic the extracellular matrix (ECM) for tissue engineering applications. However, the ability to design collagen I hydrogels similar to the properties of physiological tissues has been elusive. This is primarily due to the lack of quantitative correlations between multiple fabrication parameters and resulting material properties. This study aims to enable informed design and fabrication of collagen hydrogels in order to reliably and reproducibly mimic a variety of soft tissues. We developed empirical predictive models relating fabrication parameters with material and transport properties. These models were obtained through extensive experimental characterization of these properties, which include compression modulus, pore and fiber diameter, and diffusivity. Fabrication parameters were varied within biologically relevant ranges and included collagen concentration, polymerization pH, and polymerization temperature. The data obtained from this study elucidates previously unknown fabrication-property relationships, while the resulting equations facilitate informed a priori design of collagen hydrogels with prescribed properties. By enabling hydrogel fabrication by design, this study has the potential to greatly enhance the utility and relevance of collagen hydrogels in order to develop physiological tissue microenvironments for a wide range of tissue engineering applications.