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Biomacromolecules. 2007 Feb;8(2):406-15. Epub 2007 Jan 25.

Viscoelastic characterization and modeling of gelation kinetics of injectable in situ cross-linkable poly(lactide-co-ethylene oxide-co-fumarate) hydrogels.

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  • 1Biomimetic Materials and Tissue Engineering Laboratories, Department of Chemical Engineering, Swearingen Engineering Center, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina 29208, USA.


Cell transplantation by injection of biodegradable hydrogels is a recently developed strategy for the treatment of degenerated tissues. A cell carrier should be cytocompatible, have suitable working time and rheological properties for injection, and harden in situ to attain dimensional stability and the desired mechanical strength. Hydrophilic macromer/cross-linker polymerizing systems, due to the relatively high molecular weight of the macromer and its inability to cross the cell membrane, are very attractive as injectable cell carriers. The objective of this research was to determine the effects of cross-linker, initiator, and accelerator concentrations on the gelation kinetics and ultimate modulus of a biodegradable, in situ cross-linkable poly(lactide-co-ethylene oxide-co-fumarate) (PLEOF) macromer. The in situ polymerizing mixture consisted of PLEOF macromer, methylene bisacrylamide cross-linker, and a neutral redox initiation system of ammonium persulfate initiator and tetramethylethylenediamine accelerator. Measurement of the time evolution of the viscoelastic properties of the network during the sol-gel transition showed the important influence of each component on the gel time and stiffness of the hydrogels. A kinetic model was developed to predict the modulus as a function of composition. Model predictions were consistent with most of the experimental findings. The values of the storage and loss moduli at the gel point were found to be approximately equal for samples with equal PLEOF concentrations, resulting in a simple method to predict the gelation time based on the Winter--Chambon criterion, with the use of the proposed kinetic model. The results of this study can be coupled with component cytocompatibility measurements to predict the effect of composition on the viability of the cells encapsulated in the hydrogel matrix.

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