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Biomacromolecules. 2008 Mar;9(3):919-26. doi: 10.1021/bm7013075. Epub 2008 Feb 21.

Photopolymerized thermosensitive hydrogels: synthesis, degradation, and cytocompatibility.

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Department of Pharmaceutics, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences (UIPS), Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80082, 3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands.


In situ forming hydrogels based on thermosensitive polymers have attractive properties for tissue engineering. However, the physical interactions in these hydrogels are not strong enough to yield gels with sufficient stability for many of the proposed applications. In this study, additional covalent cross-links were introduced by photopolymerization to improve the mechanical properties and the stability of thermosensitive hydrogels. Methacrylate groups were coupled to the side chains of triblock copolymers (ABA) with thermosensitive poly( N-(2-hydroxypropyl) methacrylamide lactate) A blocks and a hydrophilic poly(ethylene glycol) B block. These polymers exhibit lower critical solution temperature (LCST) behavior in aqueous solution and the cloud point decreased with increasing amounts of methacrylate groups. These methacrylate groups were photopolymerized above the LCST to render covalent cross-links within the hydrophobic domains. The mechanical properties of photopolymerized hydrogels were substantially improved and their stability was prolonged significantly compared to nonphotopolymerized hydrogels. Whereas non-UV-cured gels disintegrated within 2 days at physiological pH and temperature, the photopolymerized gels degraded in 10 to 25 days depending on the degree of cross-linking. To assess biocompatibility, goat mesenchymal stem cells were seeded on the hydrogel surface or encapsulated within the gel and they remained viable as demonstrated by a LIVE/DEAD cell viability/cytotoxicity assay. Expression of alkaline phosphatase and production of collagen I demonstrated the functionality of the mesenchymal stem cells and their ability to differentiate upon encapsulation. Due to the improved mechanical properties, stability, and adequate cytocompatibility, the photopolymerized thermosensitive hydrogels can be regarded as highly potential materials for applications in tissue engineering.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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