Label-free imaging of gelatin-containing hydrogel scaffolds

Yajie Liang, Amnon Bar-Shir, Xiaolei Song, Assaf A. Gilad, Piotr Walczak, Jeff W.M. Bulte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Composite hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogels containing gelatin are used in regenerative medicine as tissue-mimicking scaffolds for improving stem cell survival. Once implanted, it is assumed that these biomaterials disintegrate over time, but at present there is no non-invasive imaging technique available with which such degradation can be directly monitored invivo. We show here the potential of chemical exchange saturation transfer magnetic resonance imaging (CEST MRI) as a label-free non-invasive imaging technique to monitor dynamic changes in scaffold composition invivo. The CEST properties of the three individual hydrogel components (HA, GelinS, and polyethylene glycol diacrylate) were first measured invitro. The complete hydrogel was then injected into the brain of immunodeficient rag2-/- mice and CEST MR images were obtained at day 1 and 7 post-transplantation. Invitro, GelinS gave the strongest CEST signal at 3.6ppm offset from the water peak, originating from the amide protons present in gelatin. Invivo, a significant decrease in CEST signal was observed at 1 week post-implantation. These results were consistent with the biodegradation of the GelinS component, as validated by fluorescent microscopy of implanted hydrogels containing Alexa Fluor 488-labeled GelinS. Our label-free imaging approach should be useful for further development of hydrogel formulations with improved composition and stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-150
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Gelatin
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Hydrogel
  • Scaffold
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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