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J Biomed Mater Res A. 2008 Mar 15;84(4):899-907.

Maintaining dimensions and mechanical properties of ionically crosslinked alginate hydrogel scaffolds in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1078, USA.


Ionically crosslinked alginate hydrogels are attractive scaffolds because of their biocompatibility and mild gelation reaction that allows for gentle cell incorporation. However, the instability of ionically crosslinked hydrogels in an aqueous environment is a challenge that limits their application. This report presents a novel method to control the dimensions and mechanical properties of ionically crosslinked hydrogels via control of the ionic concentration of the medium. Homogeneous calcium-alginate gels were incubated in physiological saline baths adjusted to specific calcium ion concentrations. Swelling and shrinking occurred at low and high ionic concentrations of the medium, respectively, while an "optimal" intermediate calcium ion concentration of the medium was found to maintain original size and shape of the hydrogel. This optimal calcium ion concentration was found to be a function of crosslinking density and polymer concentration of the hydrogel and chemical composition of the alginate. The effects of optimal and high calcium ion concentrations of the medium on swelling behavior, calcium content, dry weight, and mechanical properties of the immersed hydrogels were investigated. It was found that the resulting hydrogel composition and mechanical properties depended on not only the calcium concentration of the medium, but also the crosslinking density and polymer concentration of the gel. In an 8-week experiment, controlled dimensions and mechanical properties of alginate gels in an aqueous environment were demonstrated. This new technique significantly enhances the potential of alginate hydrogels for tissue engineering and other biomedical applications.

(c) 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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