Nanofiber-structured hydrogel yarns with pH-response capacity and cardiomyocyte-drivability for bio-microactuator application

Shaohua Wu, Bin Duan, Xiaohong Qin, Jonathan T. Butcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Polymeric hydrogels have great potential in soft biological micro-actuator applications. However, inappropriate micro-architecture, non-anisotropy, weak biomechanics, and inferior response behaviors limit their development. In this study, we designed and manufactured novel polyacrylonitrile (PAN)-based hydrogel yarns composed with uniaxially aligned nanofibers. The nanofibrous hydrogel yarns possessed anisotropic architecture and robust mechanical properties with flexibility, and could be assembled into defined scaffold structures by subsequent processes. The as-prepared hydrogel yarns showed excellent pH response behaviors, with around 100% maximum length and 900% maximum diameter changes, and the pH response was completed within several seconds. Moreover, the hydrogel yarns displayed unique cell-responsive abilities to promote the cell adhesion, proliferation, and smooth muscle differentiation of human adipose derived mesenchymal stem cells (HADMSC). Chicken cardiomyocytes were further seeded onto our nanofibrous hydrogel yarns to engineer living cell-based microactuators. Our results demonstrated that the uniaxially aligned nanofibrous networks within the hydrogel yarns were the key characteristics leading to the anisotropic organization of cardiac cells, and improved sarcomere organization, mimicking the cardiomyocyte bundles in the native myocardium. The construct is capable of sustaining spontaneous cardiomyocyte pumping behaviors for 7 days. Our PAN-based nanofibrous hydrogel yarns are attractive for creating linear microactuators with pH-response capacity and biological microactuators with cardiomyocyte-drivability. Statement of Significance A mechanically robust polyacrylonitrile-based nanofibrous hydrogel yarn is fabricated by using a modified electrospinning setup in combination with chemical modification processes. The as-prepared hydrogel yarn possesses a uniaxially aligned nanofiber microarchitecture and supports a rapid, pH-dependent expansion/contraction response within a few seconds. Embryonic cardiomyocytes-seeded hydrogel yarn improves the sarcomere organization and mimics the cardiomyocyte bundles in the native myocardium, which sustains spontaneous cardiomyocyte pumping behaviors. The nanofibrous hydrogel yarn has several advantages over traditional bulk hydrogel scaffolds in terms of robust biomechanics, anisotropic aligned architecture, and superior pH response behaviors. Our nanofibrous hydrogel yarn holds the potential to be developed into novel linear and biological microactuators for various biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-153
Number of pages10
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Sep 15 2017


  • Biomimetic materials
  • Hydrogels
  • Nanofiber yarns
  • Nanostructures
  • Structure anisotropy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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