Single-Step Synthesis of Alginate Microgels Enveloped with a Covalent Polymeric Shell: A Simple Way to Protect Encapsulated Cells.

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TitleSingle-Step Synthesis of Alginate Microgels Enveloped with a Covalent Polymeric Shell: A Simple Way to Protect Encapsulated Cells.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsAhn, SHyun, Rath, M, Tsao, C-Y, Bentley, WE, Raghavan, SR
JournalACS Appl Mater Interfaces
Date Published2021 Apr 19

Microgels of biopolymers such as alginate are widely used to encapsulate cells and other biological payloads. Alginate is an attractive material for cell encapsulation because it is nontoxic and convenient: spherical alginate gels are easily created by contacting aqueous droplets of sodium alginate with divalent cations such as Ca. Alginate chains in the gel become cross-linked by Ca cations into a 3-D network. When alginate gels are placed in a buffer, however, the Ca cross-links are eliminated by exchange with Na, thereby weakening and degrading the gels. With time, encapsulated cells are released into the external solution. Here, we describe a simple solution to the above problem, which involves forming alginate gels enveloped by a . The shell is formed via free-radical polymerization using conventional monomers such as acrylamide (AAm) or acrylate derivatives, including polyethylene glycol diacrylate (PEGDA). The entire process is performed in a single step at room temperature (or 37 °C) under mild, aqueous conditions. It involves combining the alginate solution with a radical initiator, which is then introduced as droplets into a reservoir containing Ca and monomers. Within minutes of either simple incubation or exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, the droplets are converted into alginate-polymer microcapsules with a core of alginate and a shell of the polymer (AAm or PEGDA). The microcapsules are mechanically more robust than conventional alginate/Ca microgels, and while the latter swell and degrade when placed in buffers or in chelators like sodium citrate, the former remain stable under all conditions. We encapsulate both bacteria and mammalian cells in these microcapsules and find that the cells remain viable and functional over time. Lastly, a variation of the synthesis technique is shown to generate microcapsules with a liquid core surrounded by concentric layers of alginate and AAm gels. We anticipate that the approaches presented here will find application in a variety of areas including cell therapies, artificial cells, drug delivery, and tissue engineering.

Alternate JournalACS Appl Mater Interfaces
PubMed ID33871957