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Fabrication of Inverted Colloidal Crystal Poly(ethylene glycol) Scaffold: A Three-dimensional Cell Culture Platform for Liver Tissue Engineering

Published: August 27th, 2016



1School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, 2School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Nanyang Technological University

This manuscript presents a detailed protocol for the fabrication of an emerging three-dimensional hepatocyte culture platform, the inverted colloidal crystal scaffold, and the concomitant techniques to assess hepatocyte behavior. The size-controllable pores, interconnectivity and ability to conjugate extracellular matrix proteins to the poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) scaffold enhance Huh-7.5 cell performance.

The ability to maintain hepatocyte function in vitro, for the purpose of testing xenobiotics' cytotoxicity, studying virus infection and developing drugs targeted at the liver, requires a platform in which cells receive proper biochemical and mechanical cues. Recent liver tissue engineering systems have employed three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds composed of synthetic or natural hydrogels, given their high water retention and their ability to provide the mechanical stimuli needed by the cells. There has been growing interest in the inverted colloidal crystal (ICC) scaffold, a recent development, which allows high spatial organization, homotypic and heterotypic cell interaction, as well as cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interaction. Herein, we describe a protocol to fabricate the ICC scaffold using poly (ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) and the particle leaching method. Briefly, a lattice is made from microsphere particles, after which a pre-polymer solution is added, properly polymerized, and the particles are then removed, or leached, using an organic solvent (e.g., tetrahydrofuran). The dissolution of the lattice results in a highly porous scaffold with controlled pore sizes and interconnectivities that allow media to reach cells more easily. This unique structure allows high surface area for the cells to adhere to as well as easy communication between pores, and the ability to coat the PEGDA ICC scaffold with proteins also shows a marked effect on cell performance. We analyze the morphology of the scaffold as well as the hepatocarcinoma cell (Huh-7.5) behavior in terms of viability and function to explore the effect of ICC structure and ECM coatings. Overall, this paper provides a detailed protocol of an emerging scaffold that has wide applications in tissue engineering, especially liver tissue engineering.

The liver is a highly vascularized organ with a multitude of functions, including detoxification of the blood, metabolism of xenobiotics, and the production of serum proteins. Liver tissue has a complex three-dimensional (3D) microstructure, comprising of multiple cell types, bile canaliculi, sinusoids, and zones of different biomatrix composition and different oxygen concentrations. Given this elaborate structure, it has been difficult to create a proper liver model in vitro1. However, there is a rising demand for functional in vitro models hosting human hepatocytes as platforms for testing drug toxicity2 and studying diseases ....

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1. ICC Scaffold Fabrication (Figure 1)

  1. Prepare the polystyrene (PS) lattices (diameter = 6 mm; 8-13 layers of beads).
    1. To prepare the mold, cut the tips off from 0.2 ml boil-proof microcentrifuge tubes at the 40 µl level. Adhere the top of the cut-tubes to 24 x 60 mm2 microscope cover glass slips with water-proof glue.
    2. Put the PS spheres (diameter = 140 µm) contained within a water suspension into a 20 ml vial, carefully pipette out the water suspension, and add 18 m.......

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The representative results for the structural characterization of the ICC scaffold and the comparison of each ICC scaffold condition's efficacy in culturing hepatocytes are shown and explained below. The ICC scaffold conditions used in these results are collagen coatings of 0 µg/ml (Bare), 20 µg/ml (Collagen 20), 200 µg/ml (Collagen 200), and 400 µg/ml (Collagen 400) and the initial Huh-7.5 cell seeding number is 1x106.

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Tissue engineering scaffolds are rapidly evolving to provide all the physical and biochemical cues necessary to regenerate, maintain, or repair tissues for the application of organ replacement, studying disease, developing drugs, and many others57. In liver tissue engineering, primary human hepatocytes rapidly lose their metabolic functions once isolated from the body, creating a great need for engineering scaffolds and developing platforms to maintain the hepatic function. The current in vitro hepato.......

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The authors wish to acknowledge support from a National Research Foundation Fellowship (NRF -NRFF2011-01) and Competitive Research Programme (NRF-CRP10-2012-07).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
0.2 mL PCR tube Axygen Scientific PCR-02D-C Boil-proof
Gorilla Glue Gorilla Glue, Inc. Depends on vendor. This was purchased from a local store.
Glass slides VWR  631-1575 Dimensions: 24×60 mm
Polystyrene spheres  Fisher Scientific TSS#4314A Diameter = 140 um; 3x10^4 particles per milliliter and 1.4% size distribution
Ethanol Merck 1.00983.1011 absolute for analysis EMSURE; Dilute to 70% with Milli-Q water
Ultrasonic Bath Elma S10H Equiment
Furnace Nabertherm N7/H Equipment
200 µL pipette tip Axygen Scientific T-210-Y-R-S
Rocking shaker VWR 444-0142
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) Merck 1.09727.0100 Mw= 4kDa; acrylation of PEG monomers and purification of the resulting precipitate produces a PEGDA macromer with Mw = 4.6kDa
Centrifuge Beckman Coulter 392932 Equipment
Acrylate-Poly (Ethylene Glycol) - Succinimidyl Valerate  Laysan Bio ACRL-PEG-SVA-3400-1g Mw = 3.4 kDa
2-hydroxy-4'-(2-hydroxyethoxy)-2-methylpropiophenone Sigma Aldrich 410896
Vortex VWR 58816-123 Equipment
Microcentrifuge Eppendorf 5404 000.413
Paraffin Film  Parafilm M  #PM996 Kept at 9" with allows intensity of 10.84 mW/cm^2
Bluewave 200 UV spotlight Blaze Technology  120008, 122300
Tetrahydrofuran (THF) Merck 107025
Orbital shaker Heidolph 543-123120-00-5 From rat
Collagen Type I Sigma Aldrich C3867-1VL 1X, w/o CaCl & MgCl; Ph = 7.2
Phosphate Buffered Saline (PBS)  Gibco 20012-027 16% W/V AQ. 10x10ml
Paraformaldehyde VWR 43368.9M Equipment
Freezone 4.5 freeze drier Labconco 7750020 Equipment
Sputter coater Jeol Ltd. JFC-1600 Equipment
Scanning Electron Microscope Jeol Ltd. JSM 5310
Anti-mouse primary antibodies against Collagen type I Abcam ab6308
Anti-mouse secondary antibody conjugated with Alexa Fluor 488 Life Technologies A21121
Plate, Tissue Culture 24 Well, Flat Bottom (Nunclon)  Bio-Rev PTE LTD 3820-024
Dulbecco's Modified Eagle's Medium(DMEM)
2.5 g/L Glucose w/ L-Gln
Lonza 12-604F
Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) Gibco A15-151
Penicillin-Streptomycin (P/S) Life Tchnologies 15140-122 E
APC49‐Huh ‐7.5 Cell Line Apath
100 mm Corning non-treated culture dishes Sigma Aldrich CLS430591
0.25% Trypsin-EDTA Gibco 25200-056 Equipment; 37°C, 5% Humidity
Forma Steri-Cycle CO2 Incubators Thermofisher Scientific 371
Hausser Bright-Line Phase Hemacytometer Thermofisher Scientific 02-671-6
Live/Dead Viability/Cytotoxicity Kit 'for mammalian cells Life Technologies L3224 
CCK-8 Assay Dojindo Laboratories CK04-11 Monosodium-salt reagent (MSR)
Infinite 200 PRO microplate reader  Tecan
Albumin Human ELISA kit Abcam ab108788
Triton X-100 Bio-Rad #1610407
Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) Sigma-Aldrich A2153-50G
Anti-mouse primary antibodies (against CYP3A4, albumin) Santa Cruz Biotechnology sc-53850; sc-271605
DAPI Life Technologies D3571
Alexa Fluor 555 labelled Phalloidin Life Technologies A34055
Trizol Life Technologies 15596-026
Chloroform VWR 22706.326
Isopropanol Fisher Scientific 67-63-0
DPEC water Thermofisher Scientific AM9916
Nanodrop 2000c Spectrophotometer Thermofisher Scientific ND-2000
iScript Reverse Transcription Supermix  Bio-Rad Laboratories 1708840
SYBR select Master Mix for CFX Life Technology 4472937
Primers (to be chosen)
CFX96 Real-Time System, C-1000 Touch Thermal Cycler Bio Rad Laboratories SOFT-CFX-31-PATCH 

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