Pereira RF, Barrias CC, Bártolo PJ, Granja PL. Acta Biomater 2018;66:282-93.
Cell-instructive hydrogels are attractive for skin repair and regeneration, serving as interactive matrices to promote cell adhesion, cell-driven remodeling and de novo deposition of extracellular matrix components. This paper describes the synthesis and photocrosslinking of cell-instructive pectin hydrogels using cell-degradable peptide crosslinkers and integrin-specific adhesive ligands. Protease-degradable hydrogels obtained by photoinitiated thiol-norbornene click chemistry are rapidly formed in the presence of dermal fibroblasts, exhibit tunable properties and are capable of modulating the behavior of embedded cells, including the cell spreading, hydrogel contraction and secretion of matrix metalloproteases. Keratinocytes seeded on top of fibroblast-loaded hydrogels are able to adhere and form a compact and dense layer of epidermis, mimicking the architecture of the native skin. Thiol-ene photocrosslinkable pectin hydrogels support the in vitro formation of full-thickness skin and are thus a highly promising platform for skin tissue engineering applications, including wound healing and in vitrotesting models.