Design of electrohydrodynamic sprayed polyethylene glycol hydrogel microspheres for cell encapsulation

Anisa S. Qayyum, Era Jain, Grant Kolar, Yonghyun Kim, Scott A. Sell, Silviya P. Zustiak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Electrohydrodynamic spraying (EHS) has recently gained popularity for microencapsulation of cells for applications in cell delivery and tissue engineering. Some of the polymers compatible with EHS are alginate, chitosan, and other similar natural polymers, which are subject to ionotropic or physical gelation. It is desirable to further extend the use of the EHS technique beyond such polymers for wider biofabrication applications. Here, building upon our previous work of making PEG microspheres via EHS, we utilized the principles of EHS to fabricate cell-laden polyethylene glycol (PEG) hydrogel microspheres. The gelation of PEG hydrogel microspheres was achieved by forming covalent crosslinks between multiarm PEG acrylate and dithiol crosslinkers via Michael-type addition. We conducted a detailed investigation of the critical parameters of EHS, such as the applied voltage, inner needle diameter (i.d. needle), and flow rate, to obtain PEG microspheres with high cell viability and tightly-controlled diameters in the range of 70-300 μm. The polydispersity of cell-laden PEG hydrogel microspheres as measured by % coefficient of variation was between 6% and 23% for all conditions tested. We established that our method was compatible with different cell types and that all tested cell types could be encapsulated at high densities of 106-109 and ≥90% encapsulation efficiency. We observed cell aggregation within the hydrogel microspheres at applied voltage >5 kV. Since PEG is a synthetic polymer devoid of cell attachment sites, we could overcome this limitation by tethering Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser (RGDS) peptide to the PEG hydrogel microspheres; upon RGDS tethering, we observed uniform cell dispersion. The microencapsulated cells could be cultured in the PEG hydrogel microspheres of different sizes for up to one week without significant loss in cell viability. In conclusion, the EHS technique developed here could be used to generate cell-laden PEG hydrogel microspheres of controlled sizes for potential applications in cell delivery and organoid cultures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number025019
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 18 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • cell microencapsulation
  • electrospraying
  • hydrogels
  • injectable microspheres
  • polyethylene glycol (PEG)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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