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Acc Chem Res. 2017 Feb 21;50(2):151-160. doi: 10.1021/acs.accounts.6b00547. Epub 2017 Feb 7.

On-Demand Dissolution of Chemically Cross-Linked Hydrogels.

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Departments of Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering, and Medicine, Boston University , 590 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, United States.


The formation and subsequent on-demand dissolution of chemically cross-linked hydrogels is of keen interest to chemists, engineers, and clinicians. In this Account, we summarize our recent advances in the area of dissolvable chemically cross-linked hydrogels and provide a comparative discussion of other recent hydrogel systems. Using biocompatible macromonomers, we developed a library of cross-linked dendritic hydrogels that possess favorable properties, including biocompatibility, tissue adhesion, and swelling. Additionally, these hydrogels possess the unique ability to dissolve on-demand via application of a biocompatible aqueous solution. Each of the three hydrogel systems described employs a thiol-thioester exchange reaction as the mechanism of dissolution. These new materials successfully decrease bleeding in in vivo models of hepatic and aortic hemorrhage and dissolve on-demand, providing easy removal. In addition, we evaluated these hydrogels as dressings for second-degree burn wounds and performed proof-of-concept in vivo studies. These hydrogel wound dressings provide a means of repeatedly changing the dressing in a minimally invasive and atraumatic manner while also serving as a protective barrier against bacterial infection. Finally, we highlight the seminal work of other researchers in the field of dissolvable chemically cross-linked hydrogels using thiol-disulfide exchange, retro-Michael-type, and retro-Diels-Alder reactions. These chemistries provide a versatile synthetic toolbox to dissolve hydrogels in a controlled manner on time scales from minutes to weeks. Continued investigation of these dissolution approaches as well as the development of new chemical reactions will open doors to other avenues of on-demand dissolution and expand the application space for these materials. In summary, the management and closure of wounds after traumatic injury or surgical intervention are of significant clinical importance. Stimuli-responsive hydrogels that function as sealants, adhesives, or dressings are emerging as vital alternatives to current standards of care that rely upon conventional sutures, staples, or dressings.

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