Effects of the poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogel crosslinking mechanism on protein release†
Poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrogels are widely used to deliver therapeutic biomolecules, due to high hydrophilicity, tunable physicochemical properties, and anti-fouling properties. Although different hydrogel crosslinking mechanisms are known to result in distinct network structures, it is still unknown how these various mechanisms influence biomolecule release. Here we compared the effects of chain-growth and step-growth polymerization for hydrogel crosslinking on the efficiency of protein release and diffusivity. For chain-growth-polymerized PEG hydrogels, while decreasing PEG concentration increased both the protein release efficiency and diffusivity, it was unexpected to find out that increasing PEG molecular weight did not significantly change either parameter. In contrast, for step-growth-polymerized PEG hydrogels, both decreasing PEG concentration and increasing PEG molecular weight resulted in an increase in the protein release efficiency and diffusivity. For step-growth-polymerized hydrogels, the protein release efficiency and diffusivity were further decreased by increasing crosslink functionality (4-arm to 8-arm) of the chosen monomer. Altogether, our results demonstrate that the crosslinking mechanism has a differential effect on controlling protein release, and this study provides valuable information for the rational design of hydrogels for sophisticated drug delivery.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Biomaterials Science Lectureship Winners