Marine Gelatin-Methacryloyl-Based Hydrogels as Cell Templates for Cartilage Tissue Engineering
Marine-origin gelatin has been increasingly used as a safe alternative to bovine and porcine ones due to their structural similarity, avoiding the health-related problems and sociocultural concerns associated with using mammalian-origin materials. Another benefit of marine-origin gelatin is that it can be produced from fish processing-products enabling high production at low cost. Recent studies have demonstrated the excellent capacity of gelatin-methacryloyl (GelMA)-based hydrogels in a wide range of biomedical applications due to their suitable biological properties and tunable physical characteristics, such as tissue engineering applications, including the engineering of cartilage. In this study, fish gelatin was obtained from Greenland halibut skins by an acidic extraction method and further functionalized by methacrylation using methacrylic anhydride, developing a photosensitive gelatin-methacryloyl (GelMA) with a degree of functionalization of 58%. The produced marine GelMA allowed the fabrication of photo-crosslinked hydrogels by incorporating a photoinitiator and UV light exposure. To improve the biological performance, GelMA was combined with two glycosaminoglycans (GAGs): hyaluronic acid (HA) and chondroitin sulfate (CS). GAGs methacrylation reaction was necessary, rendering methacrylated HA (HAMA) and methacrylated CS (CSMA). Three different concentrations of GelMA were combined with CSMA and HAMA at different ratios to produce biomechanically stable hydrogels with tunable physicochemical features. The 20% (w/v) GelMA-based hydrogels produced in this work were tested as a matrix for chondrocyte culture for cartilage tissue engineering with formulations containing both HAMA and CSMA showing improved cell viability. The obtained results suggest these hybrid hydrogels be used as promising biomaterials for cartilage tissue engineering applications.