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Biomacromolecules. 2003 Sep-Oct;4(5):1214-23.

Synthesis and characterization of injectable poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-co-acrylic acid) hydrogels with proteolytically degradable cross-links.

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  • 1Departments of Bioengineering and Materials Science and Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


Hydrogels composed of N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAAm) and acrylic acid (AAc) were prepared by redox polymerization with peptide cross-linkers to create an artificial extracellular matrix (ECM) amenable for testing hypotheses regarding cell proliferation and migration in three dimensions. Peptide degradable cross-linkers were synthesized by the acrylation of the amine groups of glutamine and lysine residues within peptide sequences potentially cleavable by matrix metalloproteinases synthesized by mammalian cells (e.g., osteoblasts). With the peptide cross-linker, loosely cross-linked poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-co-acrylic acid) [P(NIPAAm-co-AAc)] hydrogels were prepared, and their phase transition behavior, lower critical solution temperature (LCST), water content, and enzymatic degradation properties were investigated. The peptide-cross-linked P(NIPAAm-co-AAc) hydrogels were pliable and fluidlike at room temperature and could be injected through a small-diameter aperture. The LCST of peptide-cross-linked hydrogel was influenced by the monomer ratio of NIPAAm/AAc but not by cross-linking density within the polymer network. A peptide-cross-linked hydrogel with a 97/3 molar ratio of NIPAAm/AAc exhibited a LCST of approximately 34.5 degrees C. Swelling was influenced by NIPAAm/AAc monomer ratio, cross-linking density, and swelling media; however, all hydrogels maintained more than 90% water even at 37 degrees C. In enzymatic degradation studies, breakdown of the peptide-cross-linked P(NIPAAm-co-AAc) hydrogels was dependent on both the concentration of collagenase and the cross-linking density. These results suggest that peptide-cross-linked P(NIPAAm-co-AAc) hydrogels can be tailored to create environmentally-responsive artificial extracellular matrixes that are degraded by proteases.

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