Programmable hydrogels, such as thiolated hydrogels, are frequently used for tissue engineering and drug delivery applications, because they offer the ability to control gelation, degradation, and adhesion. Understanding how the mechanical properties of these materials change during these processes is essential as they directly impact cell fate and delivery efficacy. The rheology of hydrogels has been quantified primarily via bulk rheological methods. While such methods are effective, they require large sample volumes and result in the destruction of the sample; therefore, responses to multiple stimuli must be recorded across many different samples. We have developed a magnetic microwire rheometer that can characterize the rheology of small sample volumes while maintaining the integrity of the sample, such that the material response to a range of stimuli can be recorded for a single sample. This capability enables insights into time-dependent rheological changes, such as gelation and degradation, and can be applied to characterize dynamic in situ systems that are the basis for tissue scaffolding, drug delivery vehicles, and other important biological applications.

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