A Facile Strategy for the Fabrication of Cell-Laden Porous Alginate Hydrogels based on Two-Phase Aqueous Emulsions

Wen Xue, Donghee Lee, Yunfan Kong, Mitchell Kuss, Ying Huang, Taesung Kim, Soonkyu Chung, Andrew T. Dudley, Seung Hyun Ro, Bin Duan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Porous alginate (Alg) hydrogels possess many advantages as cell carriers. However, current pore generation methods require either complex or harsh fabrication processes, toxic components, or extra purification steps, limiting the feasibility and affecting the cellular survival and function. In this study, a simple and cell-friendly approach to generate highly porous cell-laden Alg hydrogels based on two-phase aqueous emulsions is reported. The pre-gel solutions, which contain two immiscible aqueous phases of Alg and caseinate (Cas), are cross-linked by calcium ions. The porous structure of the hydrogel construct is formed by subsequently removing the Cas phase from the ion-cross-linked Alg hydrogel. Those porous Alg hydrogels possess heterogeneous pores ≈100 µm and interconnected paths. Human white adipose progenitors (WAPs) encapsulated in these hydrogels self-organize into spheroids and show enhanced viability, proliferation, and adipogenic differentiation, compared to non-porous constructs. As a proof of concept, this porous Alg hydrogel platform is employed to prepare core-shell spheres for coculture of WAPs and colon cancer cells, with WAP clusters distributed around cancer cell aggregates, to investigate cellular crosstalk. This efficacious approach is believed to provide a robust and versatile platform for engineering porous-structured Alg hydrogels for applications as cell carriers and in disease modeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2214129
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number35
StatePublished - Aug 29 2023


  • adipose-cancer interaction
  • core-shell
  • porous hydrogels
  • spheroids
  • two-phase aqueous emulsions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • General Chemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrochemistry


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