Integrative Click Chemistry for Tuning Physicochemical Properties of Cancer Cell-Laden Hydrogels
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The pancreas is a vital organ that secretes key metabolic hormones and digestive enzymes. In pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), one of the leading causes of cancer-related death in the world, limited advances in diagnosis or therapies have been made over decades. Key features of PDAC progression include an elevated matrix stiffness and an increased deposition of extracellular matrices (ECM), such as hyaluronic acid (HA). Understanding how cells interact with components in the tumor microenvironment (TME) as PDAC progresses can assist in developing diagnostic tools and therapeutic treatment options. In recent years, hydrogels have proven to be an excellent platform for studying cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. Utilizing chemically modified and naturally derived materials, hydrogel networks can be formed to encompass not only the components, but also the physicochemical properties of the dynamic TME. In this work, a dynamic hydrogel system that integrates multiple click chemistries was developed for tuning matrix physicochemical properties in a manner similar to the temporally increased matrix stiffness and depositions of HA. Subsequently, these dynamic hydrogels were used to investigate how matrix stiffening and increased HA presentation might affect survival of PDAC cells and their response to chemotherapeutics.