3D culture of chondrocytes in gelatin hydrogels with different stiffness

Xiaomeng Li, Shangwu Chen, Jingchao Li, Xinlong Wang, Jing Zhang, Naoki Kawazoe, Guoping Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Gelatin hydrogels can mimic the microenvironments of natural tissues and encapsulate cells homogeneously, which makes them attractive for cartilage tissue engineering. Both the mechanical and biochemical properties of hydrogels can affect the phenotype of chondrocytes. However, the influence of each property on chondrocyte phenotype is unclear due to the difficulty in separating the roles of these properties. In this study, we aimed to study the influence of hydrogel stiffness on chondrocyte phenotype while excluding the role of biochemical factors, such as adhesion site density in the hydrogels. By altering the degree of methacryloyl functionalization, gelatin hydrogels with different stiffnesses of 3.8, 17.1, and 29.9 kPa Young's modulus were prepared from the same concentration of gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA) macromers. Bovine articular chondrocytes were encapsulated in the hydrogels and cultured for 14 days. The influence of hydrogel stiffness on the cell behaviors including cell viability, cell morphology, and maintenance of chondrogenic phenotype was evaluated. GelMA hydrogels with high stiffness (29.9 kPa) showed the best results on maintaining chondrogenic phenotype. These results will be useful for the design and preparation of scaffolds for cartilage tissue engineering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number269
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 26 2016


  • Chondrogenic phenotype
  • Gelatin
  • Hydrogel
  • Stiffness
  • Tissue engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Polymers and Plastics


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