Do-it-yourself cell culture carrier made of hydrogel
Hydrogels are used for cell cultivation due to their mechanical properties, similar to human tissue. The typical jelly-like consistency results from the high water content of the polymer network. Hydrogels offer better individualization opportunities and provide a more natural environment for cells than traditional microtiter plates.
State of the art
So far, hydrogels for cell culture have been manufactured using soft lithographic methods. Here a negative form is prepared which defines the hole sizes and volumes of the later microcavities. The hydrogel is then molded in the reusable master form: The starting materials are poured in, polymerization is initiated and the hydrogel is gelled.
Scientists at the Institute of Toxicology and Genetics (ITG) at KIT provide a more flexible manufacturing technique with a photolithographic procedure for photodegradable hydrogels. Instead of mold casting, photomasks are used in an exposure process for structuring. The fused silica photomask images planned channels or cavities with a resolution of up to 50 micrometers using a pattern of closed and open areas. A mostly block-shaped hydrogel blank that has been polymerized from commercially available chemicals (e.g. polymethacrylates) and photo catalyst under UV light or with a redox initiator is irradiated again with the photo mask on top. The UV radiation passes through the translucent areas so that the network structures of the hydrogel dissolve locally and liquefy. After rinsing, the customized wells remain for the parallelization of suspension cultures.
The developed, low-cost process enables fast and direct structuring of photochemically degradable hydrogels and does not require additional photolabile chemicals for degradation. Any geometries can be manufactured by simply changing the photomasks. The depth of degradation can be controlled by irradiation time and intensity. Compared to existing methods, the process can be used without special knowledge in polymer chemistry.
Options for companies
The hydrogel arrays were tested in cell tests at the institute. Due to their simple handling, they could be sold as hydrogel kits with standard photomasks. KIT is looking for partners for industrial use and research cooperations.
Your contact person for this offer
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Head of Technology Transfer, Innovation and Relations Management (IRM)
Phone: +49 721 608-25582