Combined, independent small molecule release and shape memory via nanogel-coated thiourethane polymer networks†
Drug releasing shape memory polymers (SMPs) were prepared from poly(thiourethane) networks that were coated with drug loaded nanogels through a UV initiated, surface mediated crosslinking reaction. Multifunctional thiol and isocyanate monomers were crosslinked through a step-growth mechanism to produce polymers with a homogeneous network structure that exhibited a sharp glass transition with 97% strain recovery and 96% shape fixity. Incorporating a small stoichiometric excess of thiol groups left pendant functionality for a surface coating reaction. Nanogels with diameter of approximately 10 nm bearing allyl and methacrylate groups were prepared separately via solution free radical polymerization. Coatings with thickness of 10–30 μm were formed via dip-coating and subsequent UV-initiated thiol–ene crosslinking between the SMP surface and the nanogel, and through inter-nanogel methacrylate homopolymerization. No significant change in mechanical properties or shape memory behavior was observed after the coating process, indicating that functional coatings can be integrated into an SMP without altering its original performance. Drug bioactivity was confirmed via in vitro culturing of human mesenchymal stem cells with SMPs coated with dexamethasone-loaded nanogels. This article offers a new strategy to independently tune multiple functions on a single polymeric device, and has broad application toward implantable, minimally invasive medical devices such as vascular stents and ocular shunts, where local drug release can greatly prolong device function.