A new polyethylene glycol (PEG) based microcarrier was designed and examined by the attachment and growth of mouse fibroblast cells. In the design of microcarrier, a PEG-based macromonomer, polyethyleneglycol methacrylate (PEGMA), was selected as the main component of hydrogel beads since PEG is known as a nontoxic and biocompatible material. A relatively new cationic comonomer, N-[3-(dimethylamino)propyl]methacrylamide (DMAPM), with higher ionization ability with respect to the similar comonomers was used for providing cationic charge to the hydrogel structure. In the first part, a suspension copolymerization method was developed for the production of cationically charged hydrogel beads as a potential microcarrier for cell culturing. The suspension copolymerization by using ethylene dimetbacrylate (EDM) as cross-linking agent and cyclohexanol as the diluent provided spherical, polydisperse poly(PEGMA-DMAPM-EDM) hydrogel beads with an average size of 121 mu m. The hydrogel beads exhibited a pH-dependent swelling behavior. The L929 mouse fibroblast cells were cultured on poly(PEGMA-DMAPM-EDM) hydrogel beads with an initial concentration of 200,000 cells/mL. The cells were incubated in Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium during 5 days and the cell proliferation was investigated at every 24 h. An effective cell attachment and growth up to 3.5 X 10(6) cells/mL were observed with the poly(PEGMA-DMAPM-EDM) hydrogel beads. The results indicated that the proposed microcarrier was a significant alternative to the hydrogel beads obtained by the copolymerization of 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate and 2-dimethylaminoethylmethacrylate commonly used in microcarrier-facilitated cell culturing studies. (c) 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.