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Microporous annealed particle (MAP) scaffolds are generated from assembled hydrogel microparticles (microgels). It has been previously demonstrated that MAP scaffold are porous, biocompatible, and recruit neural progenitor cells (NPCs) to the stroke cavity after injection into the stroke core. Here, the goal is to study NPC fate inside MAP scaffolds in vitro. To create plain microgels that can later be converted to contain different types of bioactivities, the inverse electron-demand Diels-Alder reaction between tetrazine and norbornene is utilized, which allows the post-modification of plain microgels stoichiometrically. As a result of adhesive peptide attachment, NPC spreading leads to contractile force generation which can be recorded by tracking microgel displacement. Alternatively, non-adhesive peptide integration results in neurosphere formation that grows within the void space of MAP scaffolds. Although the formed neurospheres do not impose a contractile force on the scaffolds, they are seen to continuously transverse the scaffolds. It is concluded that MAP scaffolds  can be engineered to either promote neurogenesis or enhance stemness depending on the chosen post-modifications of the microgels, which can be key in modulating their phenotypes in various applications in vivo.

Wilson KL, Pérez SCL, Naffaa MM, Kelly SH, Segura T