WEB Gelatin methacryloyl scaffolds for studying cellular mechanotransduction
Cells respond to external mechanical stimuli through a biological process called mechanotransduction, which has great impact on cellular proliferation, migration and differentiation, as well as on cell adhesion. Further, cardiomyocytes show differences in their contractile work output dependent on the stiffness of their underlying substrate. In this work, we use gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA), a semi-synthetic hydrogel, as a scaffold material and investigate the behavior of skeletal muscle cells (C2C12) on GelMA substrates with different stiffness. GelMA is a versatile material as it is easy to synthesize, provides cells with adhesion sites (e.g. RGD motifs) and can be quickly photo cross-linked. By structuring the scaffold surface with micromolding procedures and changing the stiffness of the scaffold locally, we investigate mechanotransduction in skeletal muscle cells by studying cell adhesion, myotube formation and beating behavior. Controlling mechanotransduction in skeletal muscle cells by tailoring shape, stiffness and microstructure of the GelMA scaffolds provide the opportunity to further control the actuation of the scaffolds by the muscle cells, thus being highly relevant for future applications in biohybrid soft robotics.