Arginine–glycine–aspartic acid functional branched semi-interpenetrating hydrogels
For the first time a series of functional hydrogels based on semi-interpenetrating networks with both branched and crosslinked polymer components have been prepared and we show the successful use of these materials as substrates for cell culture. The materials consist of highly branched poly(N-isopropyl acrylamide)s with peptide functionalised end groups in a continuous phase of crosslinked poly(vinyl pyrrolidone). Functionalisation of the end groups of the branched polymer component with the GRGDS peptide produces a hydrogel that supports cell adhesion and proliferation. The materials provide a new synthetic functional biomaterial that has many of the features of extracellular matrix, and as such can be used to support tissue regeneration and cell culture. This class of high water content hydrogel material has important advantages over other functional hydrogels in its synthesis and does not require post-processing modifications nor are functional-monomers, which change the polymerisation process, required. Thus, the systems are amenable to large scale and bespoke manufacturing using conventional moulding or additive manufacturing techniques. Processing using additive manufacturing is exemplified by producing tubes using microstereolithography.