aDepartment of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
bBiofrontiers Institute, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
cHoward Hughes Medical Institute, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
Corresponding author at: Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Colorado Jennie Smoly Caruthers, Biotechnology Building, 3415 Colorado Ave, 596 UCB, Boulder, CO 80303, USA. Tel.: +1 303 492 7471; fax: +1 303 492 4341.
Advances in hydrogel design have revolutionized the way biomaterials are applied to address biomedical needs. Hydrogels were introduced in medicine over 50 years ago and have evolved from static, bioinert materials to dynamic, bioactive microenvironments, which can be used to direct specific biological responses such as cellular ingrowth in wound healing or on-demand delivery of therapeutics. Two general classes of mechanisms, those defined by the user and those dictated by the endogenous cells and tissues, can control dynamic hydrogel microenvironments. These highly tunable materials have provided bioengineers and biological scientists with new ways not only to treat patients in the clinic but to study the fundamental cellular responses to engineered microenvironments as well. Here, we provide a brief history of hydrogels in medicine and follow with a discussion of the synthesis and implementation of dynamic hydrogel microenvironments for healthcare-related applications.