Presenter: Christopher Tsui
In the central nervous system, damage resulting from events such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, or implantation of electrodes or other biomaterials will typically elicit a sustained inflammatory response that includes gliosis, cell death, and glial scar formation that can exacerbate injury and prevent healthy recovery of affected tissue. Implicated in the inflammatory response are glial cells - the regulatory and immune cells of the central nervous system. While ubiquitous 2-dimensional cell cultures are a reductionist and high-throughput means of assessing glial cell reactivity to a wide range of stimuli, 3-dimensional cell cultures build on this concept by offering a more physiologically relevant environment to cells compared to a planar substrate. We make use of photocrosslinked methacrylated hyaluronic acid (HAMA) hydrogels which offer a reproducible means of housing primary glial cells (microglia, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes) and can evaluate their reactivity in a 3-dimensional in vitro environment in response to different injuries. HAMA hydrogels are advantageous because hyaluronic acid, the constituent material, is a natural component of nervous tissue and the macromer weight fraction of hyaluronic acid in a hydrogel mix can be tuned to approximate the mechanical properties of different types of tissue. Previously published results on the synthesis and characterization of the HAMA hydrogels will be presented, along with current work highlighting the versatility of the hydrogels in modelling different types of injury.