Hydrogels from self-assembling ionic complementary peptides have been receiving a huge of interest from the scientific community as mimetic of the extracellular matrix that can offer three-dimensional supports for cell growth or can become vehicles for the delivery of stem cells, drugs or bioactive proteins.
In order to develop a 3D “architecture” for mesenchymal stem cells, an ionic-complementary self-assembling peptide (henceforth indicated as EAK) was decorated with three different bioactive molecules: an adhesive sequence with 4 Glycine-Arginine-Glycine-Aspartic Acid-Serine-Proline (GRGDSP) motifs per chain, an adhesive peptide mapped on h-Vitronectin and the growth factor Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1).
The mesenchymal stem cell adhesion assays showed a significant increase in adhesion and proliferation for the hydrogels decorated with each of the synthesized conjugates. In particular, differences were observed in the nanoscale structure of the scaffolds obtained by changing their composition, ranging from the long and well-defined fibers for EAK functionalized with the adhesive sequences, to the compact and dense film observed for the IGF-1-conjugate, which does not show any significant change of the properties of the hydrogels.
In overall, the various functionalized 3D hydrogels have been obtained to support cell spreading and elongation, validating the use of this class of self-assembly peptides-based material as very promising 3D model scaffolds for cell cultures, at variance of the less realistic 2D ones.