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Nature. 1999 Jun 24;399(6738):766-9.

A reversibly antigen-responsive hydrogel.

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Chemical Branch, Faculty of Engineering and High Technology Research Center, Kansai University, Suita, Osaka, Japan.


Stimuli-responsive hydrogels that undergo abrupt changes in volume in response to external stimuli such as pH, temperature and solvent composition have potential applications in biomedicine and the creation of 'intelligent' materials systems, for example as media for drug delivery, separation processes and protein immobilization. Hydrogels have been reported that respond to pH, temperature, electric fields and saccharides. For some biomedical applications it would be very useful to have a material whose swelling response was dictated by a specific protein. Here we report such a material, which swells reversibly in a buffer solution in response to a specific antigen. The hydrogel was prepared by grafting the antigen and corresponding antibody to the polymer network, so that binding between the two introduces crosslinks in the network. Competitive binding of the free antigen triggers a change in gel volume owing to breaking of these non-covalent crosslinks. In addition, we show that the hydrogel displays shape-memory behaviour, and that stepwise changes in antigen concentration can induce pulsatile permeation of a protein through the network.

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