Tailoring Therapeutic Responses via Engineering Microenvironments with a Novel Synthetic Fluid Gel

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This study reports the first fully synthetic fluid gel (SyMGels) using a simple poly(ethylene glycol) polymer. Fluid gels are an interesting class of materials: structured during gelation via shear-confinement to form microparticulate suspensions, through a bottom-up approach. Structuring in this way, when compared to first forming a gel and subsequently breaking it down, results in the formation of a particulate dispersion with particles "grown" in the shear flow. Resultantly, systems form a complex microstructure, where gelled particles concentrate remaining non-gelled polymer within the continuous phase, creating an amorphous-like interstitial phase. As such, these materials demonstrate mechanical characteristics typical of colloidal glasses, presenting solid-like behaviors at rest with defined yielding; likely through intrinsic particle-particle and particle-polymer interactions. To date, fluid gels have been fabricated using polysaccharides with relatively complex chemistries, making further modifications challenging. SyMGels are easily functionalised, using simple click-chemistry. This chemical flexibility, allows the creation of microenvironments with discrete biological decoration. Cellular control is demonstrated using MSC (mesenchymal stem cells)/chondrocytes and enables the regulation of key biomarkers such as aggrecan and SOX9. These potential therapeutic platforms demonstrate an important advancement in the biomaterial field, underpinning the mechanisms which drive their mechanical properties, and providing a versatile delivery system for advanced therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2100622
JournalAdvanced Healthcare Materials
Issue number16
Early online date23 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Authors. Advanced Healthcare Materials published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.


  • PEG
  • cell scaffolds
  • fluid gels
  • functionalization
  • soft-particle glasses


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