DQ-gelatin (Thermo Fisher Scientific) fluoresces in the presence of proteases. Stock solutions of DQ-gelatin were made according to the manufacturer’s instructions (1 mg/ml in diH2O). DQ-gelatin was co-encapsulated with Gel-HI hydrogels to a final concentration of 100 μg/ml. Fluorescent microspheres (Bangs Laboratories Inc.) or ECFCs were encapsulated in Gel-HI, and cluster formation was monitored via time-lapse microscopy (Zeiss AXIO Observer Z.1). DQ-gelatin fluorescence (488/515 nm excitation/emission) signal was continuously monitored in fluorescent microsphere experiments and quantified using ImageJ (public domain). Cell experiments required different hydrogel geometries; thus, fluorescence was measured at time 0 (T0) and time 24 hours (T24) using a SpectraMax Gemini XPS (Molecular Devices; Sunnyvale, CA) and graphed using GraphPad Prism 6 (GraphPad Software Inc.).

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