Response of Endothelial Cells to Gelatin-Based Hydrogels


The establishment of confluent endothelial cell (EC) monolayers on implanted materials has been identified as a concept to avoid thrombus formation but is a continuous challenge in cardiovascular device engineering. Here, material properties of gelatin-based hydrogels obtained by reacting gelatin with varying amounts of lysine diisocyanate ethyl ester were correlated with the functional state of hydrogel contacting venous EC (HUVEC) and HUVEC’s ability to form a monolayer on these hydrogels. The density of adherent HUVEC on the softest hydrogel at 37 °C (G’ = 1.02 kPa, E = 1.1 ± 0.3 kPa) was significantly lower (125 mm–1) than on the stiffer hydrogels (920 mm–1; G’ = 2.515 and 5.02 kPa, E = 4.8 ± 0.8 and 10.3 ± 1.2 kPa). This was accompanied by increased matrix metalloprotease activity (9 pmol·min–2 compared to 0.6 pmol·min–2) and stress fiber formation, while cell-to-cell contacts were comparable. Likewise, release of eicosanoids (e.g., prostacyclin release of 1.7 vs 0.2 pg·mL–1·cell–1) and the pro-inflammatory cytokine MCP-1 (8 vs <1.5 pg·mL–1·cell–1) was higher on the softer than on the stiffer hydrogels. The expressions of pro-inflammatory markers COX-2, COX-1, and RAGE were slightly increased on all hydrogels on day 2 (up to 200% of the control), indicating a weak inflammation; however, the levels dropped to below the control from day 6. The study revealed that hydrogels with higher moduli approached the status of a functionally confluent HUVEC monolayer. The results indicate the promising potential especially of the discussed gelatin-based hydrogels with higher G’ as biomaterials for implants foreseen for the venous system.
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