New article in ACS Applied Biomaterials!

The article “Cell-Laden 3D Hydrogels of Type I Collagen Incorporating Bacterial Nanocellulose Fibers” was published in The American Chemical Society: Applied Biomaterials!

NN group member Nanthilde Malandain published this paper under the supervision of Anna Laromaine and Anna Roig with the collaboration of the Unitat de Biofísica i Bioenginyeria from the Universitat de Barcelona. In this article, type I collagen hydrogels are mixed with bacterial nanocellulose fibers to develop reinforced scaffolds with mechanical properties suitable for three-dimensional cell culture.



There is a growing interest in developing natural hydrogel-based scaffolds to culture cells in a three-dimensional (3D) millieu that better mimics the in vivo cells’ microenvironment. A promising approach is to use hydrogels from animal tissues, such as decellularized extracellular matrices; however, they usually exhibit suboptimal mechanical properties compared to native tissue and their composition with hundreds of different protein complicates to elucidate which stimulus triggers cell’s responses. As simpler scaffolds, type I collagen hydrogels are used to study cell behavior in mechanobiology even though they are also softer than native tissues. In this work, type I collagen is mixed with bacterial nanocellulose fibers (BCf) to develop reinforced scaffolds with mechanical properties suitable for 3D cell culture. BCf were produced from blended pellicles biosynthesized from Komagataeibacter xylinus. Then, BCf were mixed with concentrated collagen from rat-tail tendons to form composite hydrogels. Confocal laser scanning microscopy and scanning electron microscopy images confirmed the homogeneous macro- and microdistribution of both natural polymers. Porosity analysis confirmed that BCf do not disrupt the scaffold structure. Tensile strength and rheology measurements demonstrated the reinforcement action of BCf (43% increased stiffness) compared to the collagen hydrogel while maintaining the same viscoelastic response. Additionally, this reinforcement of collagen hydrogels with BCf offers the possibility to mix cells before gelation and then proceed to the culture of the 3D cell scaffolds. We obtained scaffolds with human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells or human fibroblasts within the composite hydrogels, allowing a homogeneous 3D viable culture for at least 7 days. A smaller surface shrinkage in the reinforced hydrogels compared to type I collagen hydrogels confirmed the strengthening of the composite hydrogels. These collagen hydrogels reinforced with BCf might emerge as a promising platform for 3D in vitro organ modeling, tissue-engineering applications, and suitable to conduct fundamental mechanobiology studies.