Rational Design and Development of Anisotropic and Mechanically Strong Gelatin-Based Stress Relaxing Hydrogels for Osteogenic/Chondrogenic Differentiation

Kamol Dey, Silvia Agnelli, Federica Re, Domenico Russo, Gina Lisignoli, Cristina Manferdini, Simona Bernardi, Elena Gabusi, Luciana Sartore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Rational design and development of tailorable simple synthesis process remains a centerpiece of investigational efforts toward engineering advanced hydrogels. In this study, a green and scalable synthesis approach is developed to formulate a set of gelatin-based macroporous hybrid hydrogels. This approach consists of four sequential steps starting from liquid-phase pre-crosslinking/grafting, unidirectional freezing, freeze-drying, and finally post-curing process. The chemical crosslinking mainly involves between epoxy groups of functionalized polyethylene glycol and functional groups of gelatin both in liquid and solid state. Importantly, this approach allows to accommodate different polymers, chitosan or hydroxyethyl cellulose, under identical benign condition. Structural and mechanical anisotropy can be tuned by the selection of polymer constituents. Overall, all hydrogels show suitable structural stability, good swellability, high porosity and pore interconnectivity, and maintenance of mechanical integrity during 3-week-long hydrolytic degradation. Under compression, hydrogels exhibit robust mechanical properties with nonlinear elasticity and stress-relaxation behavior and show no sign of mechanical failure under repeated compression at 50% deformation. Biological experiment with human bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells (hMSCs) reveals that hydrogels are biocompatible, and their physicomechanical properties are suitable to support cells growth, and osteogenic/chondrogenic differentiation, demonstrating their potential application for bone and cartilage regenerative medicine toward clinically relevant endpoints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalMacromolecular Bioscience
Issue number8
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jul 12 2019



  • anisotropic hydrogels
  • gelatin/chitosan
  • stress relaxation
  • tissue engineering
  • tissue-like mechanics

Cite this