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Microgels are the building blocks of microporous annealed particle (MAP) scaffolds, which serve as a platform for both in vitro cell culture and in vivo tissue repair. In these granular scaffolds, the innate porosity generated by the void space between microgels enables cell infiltration and migration. Controlling the void fraction and particle fraction is critical for MAP scaffold design, as porosity is a bioactive cue for cells. Spherical microgels can be generated on a microfluidic device for controlled size and shape and subsequently freeze-dried using methods that prevent fracturing of the polymer network. Upon rehydration, the lyophilized microgels lead to controlled particle fractions in MAP scaffolds. The implementation of these methods for microgel lyophilization has led to reproducible studies showing the effect of particle fraction on macromolecule diffusion and cell spreading. The following protocol will cover the fabrication, lyophilization, and rehydration of microgels for controlling particle fraction in MAP scaffolds, as well as annealing the microgels through bio-orthogonal crosslinking for 3D cell culture in vitro.

Anderson AR, Segura T