The use of hydrogels as support materials for the growth and proliferation of mammalian cells has been well documented as they closely mimic the gel-like properties – and in some cases also the chemical properties – of the extracellular matrix (ECM), which naturally surrounds the cells of any biological tissue. Macro-porous hydrogels set below the freezing point of the solvent, so-called ‘cryogels’, have recently gained significant interest in the fields of tissue engineering and in vitro cell culture, thanks to their inherent interconnected macro-porous structure and ease of formation in comparison to other macro-pore forming techniques. This review highlights recent advances in cryogelation techniques and starting materials that can be utilised to synthesise biocompatible and biologically relevant cryogels as well as discussing physicochemical characterisation techniques for these materials. Lastly, emerging trends in the application of cryogels, particularly as three-dimensional ECM mimicking scaffolds for cell culture and tissue engineering, are discussed.
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