The correlation between gelatin macroscale differences and nanoparticle properties: providing insight into biopolymer variability†
From therapeutic delivery to sustainable packaging, manipulation of biopolymers into nanostructures imparts biocompatibility to numerous materials with minimal environmental pollution during processing. While biopolymers are appealing natural based materials, the lack of nanoparticle (NP) physicochemical consistency has decreased their nanoscale translation into actual products. Insights regarding the macroscale and nanoscale property variation of gelatin, one of the most common biopolymers already utilized in its bulk form, are presented. Novel correlations between macroscale and nanoscale properties were made by characterizing similar gelatin rigidities obtained from different manufacturers. Samples with significant differences in clarity, indicating sample purity, obtained the largest deviations in NP diameter. Furthermore, a statistically significant positive correlation between macroscale molecular weight dispersity and NP diameter was determined. New theoretical calculations proposing the limited number of gelatin chains that can aggregate and subsequently get crosslinked for NP formation were presented as one possible reason to substantiate the correlation analysis. NP charge and crosslinking extent were also related to diameter. Lower gelatin sample molecular weight dispersities produced statistically smaller average diameters (<75 nm), and higher average electrostatic charges (∼30 mV) and crosslinking extents (∼95%), which were independent of gelatin rigidity, conclusions not shown in the literature. This study demonstrates that the molecular weight composition of the starting material is one significant factor affecting gelatin nanoscale properties and must be characterized prior to NP preparation. Identifying gelatin macroscale and nanoscale correlations offers a route toward greater physicochemical property control and reproducibility of new NP formulations for translation to industry.