Thin hydrogel films based on an ABA triblock copolymer gelator [where A is pH-sensitive poly(2-(diisopropylamino)ethyl methacrylate) (PDPA) and B is biocompatible poly(2-(methacryloyloxy)ethyl phosphorylcholine) (PMPC)] were used as a stimulus-responsive substrate that allows fine adjustment of the mechanical environment experienced by mouse myoblast cells. The hydrogel film elasticity could be reversibly modulated by a factor of 40 via careful pH adjustment without adversely affecting cell viability. Myoblast cells exhibited pronounced stress fiber formation and flattening on increasing the hydrogel elasticity. As a new tool to evaluate the strength of cell adhesion, we combined a picosecond laser with an inverted microscope and utilized the strong shock wave created by the laser pulse to determine the critical pressure required for cell detachment. Furthermore, we demonstrate that an abrupt jump in the hydrogel elasticity can be utilized to monitor how cells adapt their morphology to changes in their mechanical environment.
Yoshikawa, H. Y., Rossetti, F. F., Kaufmann, S. H. E., Kaindl, T., Jeppe Madsen, P., Engel, U., Lewis, A. L., Armes, S. P., & Tanaka, M. (2011). Quantitative Evaluation of Mechanosensing of Cells on Dynamically Tunable Hydrogels. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 133(5), 1367-1374. https://doi.org/10.1021/ja1060615