Effects of mechanical properties of gelatin methacryloyl hydrogels on encapsulated stem cell spheroids for 3D tissue engineering

Eun Mi Kim, Gyeong Min Lee, Sangmin Lee, Se jeong Kim, Dongtak Lee, Dae Sung Yoon, Jinmyoung Joo, Hyunjoon Kong, Hee Ho Park, Heungsoo Shin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Cell spheroids are three-dimensional cell aggregates that have been widely employed in tissue engineering. Spheroid encapsulation has been explored as a method to enhance cell-cell interactions. However, the effect of hydrogel mechanical properties on spheroids, specifically soft hydrogels (<1 kPa), has not yet been studied. In this study, we determined the effect of encapsulation of stem cell spheroids by hydrogels crosslinked with different concentrations of gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA) on the functions of the stem cells. To this end, human adipose-derived stem cell (ADSC) spheroids with a defined size were prepared, and spheroid-laden hydrogels with various concentrations (5, 10, 15%) were fabricated. The apoptotic index of cells from spheroids encapsulated in the 15% hydrogel was high. The migration distance was five-fold higher in cells encapsulated in the 5% hydrogel than the 10% hydrogel. After 14 days of culture, cells from spheroids in the 5% hydrogel were observed to have spread and proliferated. Osteogenic factor and pro-angiogenic factor production in the 15% hydrogel was high. Collectively, our results indicate that the functionality of spheroids can be regulated by the mechanical properties of hydrogel, even under 1 kPa. These results indicate that spheroid-laden hydrogels are suitable for use in 3D tissue construction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)903-913
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Macromolecules
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jan 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Encapsulation
  • Gelatin methacryloyl
  • Spheroid-laden hydrogel
  • Stem cell spheroid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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