Effects of substrate stiffness on adipogenic and osteogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells

Wen Zhao, Xiaowei Li, Xiaoyan Liu, Ning Zhang, Xuejun Wen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Substrate mechanical properties, in addition to biochemical signals, have been shown to modulate cell phenotype. In this study, we inspected the effects of substrate stiffness on human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) derived from adult human bone marrow differentiation into adipogenic and osteogenic cells. A chemically modified extracellular matrix derived and highly biocompatible hydrogel, based on thiol functionalized hyaluronic acid (HA-SH) and thiol functionalized recombinant human gelatin (Gtn-SH), which can be crosslinked by poly (ethylene glycol) tetra-acrylate (PEGTA), was used as a model system. The stiffness of the hydrogel was controlled by adjusting the crosslinking density. Human bone marrow MSCs were cultured on the hydrogels with different stiffness under adipogenic and osteogenic conditions. Oil Red O staining and F-actin staining were applied to assess the change of cell morphologies under adipogenic and osteogenic differentiation, respectively. Gene expression of cells was determined with reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) as a function of hydrogel stiffness. Results support the hypothesis that adipogenic and osteogenic differentiation of hMSCs are inclined to occur on substrate with stiffness similar to their in vivo microenvironments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-323
Number of pages8
JournalMaterials Science and Engineering C
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Differentiation
  • Hydrogel
  • Mechanical property
  • Mesenchymal stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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