Cytocompatible click-based hydrogels with dynamically tunable properties through orthogonal photoconjugation and photocleavage reactions.
To provide insight into how cells receive information from their external surroundings, synthetic hydrogels have emerged as systems for assaying cell function in well-defined microenvironments where single cues can be introduced and subsequent effects individually elucidated. However, as answers to more complex biological questions continue to be sought, advanced material systems are needed that allow dynamic alteration of the three-dimensional cellular environment with orthogonal reactions that enable multiple levels of control of biochemical and biomechanical signals. Here, we seek to synthesize one such three-dimensional culture system using cytocompatible and wavelength-specific photochemical reactions to create hydrogels that allow orthogonal and dynamic control of material properties through independent spatiotemporally regulated photocleavage of crosslinks and photoconjugation of pendant functionalities. Theresults demonstrate the versatile nature of the chemistry to create programmableniches to study and direct cell function by modifying the local hydrogel environment.