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Biomaterials. 2004 Jun;25(13):2461-6.

Controlled degradation of hydrogels using multi-functional cross-linking molecules.

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Department of Biologic & Materials Sciences, University of Michigan, 3074 HH Dow Building, 2300 Hayward Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2136, USA.


Hydrogels, chemically cross-linked or physically entangled, have found a number of applications as novel delivery vehicles of drugs and cells. However, the narrow ranges of degradation rates and mechanical strength currently available from many hydrogels limits their applications. We have hypothesized that utilization of multi-functional cross-linking molecules to form hydrogels could provide a wider range and tighter control over the degradation rates and mechanical stiffness of gels than bi-functional cross-linking molecules. To address the possibility, we isolated alpha-L-guluronate residues of sodium alginate, and oxidized them to prepare poly(aldehyde guluronate) (PAG). Hydrogels were formed with either poly(acrylamide-co-hydrazide) (PAH) as a multi-functional cross-linking molecule or adipic acid dihydrazide (AAD) as a bi-functional cross-linking molecule. The initial properties and degradation behavior of both PAG gel types were monitored. PAG/PAH hydrogels showed higher mechanical stiffness before degradation and degraded more slowly than PAG/AAD gels, at the same concentration of cross-linking functional groups. The enhanced mechanical stiffness and prolonged degradation behavior could be attributed to the multiple attachment points of PAH in the gel at the same concentration of functional groups. This approach to regulating gel properties with multifunctional cross-linking molecules could be broadly used in hydrogels.

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