Biomaterials and Nanotechnology for Drug and Vaccine Development
B.S. University of California, Berkeley (Biomedical Engineering)
Ph.D. University of California, San Diego (Bioengineering)
Cell membranes are an intricate yet fragile interface that requires substrate support for stabilization. Upon cell death, disassembly of the cytoskeletal network deprives plasma membranes of mechanical support and leads to membrane rupture and disintegration. By assembling a network of synthetic hydrogel polymers inside the intracellular compartment using photo-activated crosslinking chemistry, we show that the fluid cell membrane can be preserved, resulting in intracellularly gelated cells with robust stability. Upon assessing several types of adherent and suspension cells over a range of hydrogel crosslinking densities, we validate retention of surface properties, membrane lipid fluidity, lipid order, and protein mobility on the gelated cells. Preservation of cell surface functions is further demonstrated with gelated antigen presenting cells, which engage with antigen-specific T lymphocytes and effectively promote cell expansion ex vivo and in vivo. The intracellular hydrogelation technique presents a versatile cell fixation approach adaptable for biomembrane studies and biomedical device construction.