Thermoresponsive magnetic colloidal gels via surface-initiated polymerisation from functional microparticles†
Novel magnetothermally responsive core–shell microparticles have been synthesized. The aqueous suspensions of these particles exhibit fast thermoreversible fluid-to-gel transitions and retain good magnetic properties. Rheological measurements demonstrated that the viscoelasticity of the prepared particle gels can be tuned, enabling these gels to have the mechanical properties that should facilitate their applications as 3D cell scaffolds for in vitro expansion of cells. Also, it was found that the responsive particles could be used in repeated heating-cooling cycles without marked changes in gel elasticity. PrestoBlue viability assays of 3T3 fibroblasts and human mesenchymal stem cells cultured within the colloidal gel showed that the cells remained viable and proliferated, with significant increases in cell numbers over extended culture times. Confocal microscopy images of 3T3 cells cultured within the colloidal gel demonstrated that cells adhered, spread and retained their normal morphologies during proliferation. Furthermore, magnetic separation allowed efficient recovery of cells after their expansion in vitro without need for enzyme-mediated release steps. Trypsin-free cell passages were performed allowing multiple growth, separation and reloading of cells within the colloidal gels. Overall, the results suggest this colloidal gel has potential as a 3D scaffold for in vitro expansion of a variety of cell types and for enzyme free cell harvesting.