Development of rhamnose-rich hydrogels based on sulfated xylorhamno-uronic acid toward wound healing applications
An array of biological properties is demonstrated in the category of extracts broadly known as ulvans, including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant activities. However, the development of this category in biomedical applications is limited due to high structural variability across species and a lack of consistent and scalable sources. In addition, the modification and formulation of these molecules is still in its infancy with regard to progressing to product development. Here, a sulfated and rhamnose-rich, xylorhamno-uronic acid (XRU) extract from the cell wall of a controlled source of cultivated Australian ulvacean macroalgae resembles mammalian connective glycosaminoglycans. It is therefore a strong candidate for applications in wound healing and tissue regeneration. This study targets the development of polysaccharide modification for fabrication of 3D scaffolds for skin cell (fibroblast) culture. The XRU extract is methacrylated and UV-crosslinked to produce hydrogels with tuneable mechanical properties. The hydrogels demonstrate high cell viability and support cell proliferation over 14 days, which are far more functional than comparable alginate gels. Importantly, an XRU-based bioink is developed for extrusion printing 3D constructs both with and without cell encapsulation. These results highlight the close to product potential of this rhamnose-rich XRU extract as a promising biomaterial toward wound healing. Future studies should be focused on in-depth in vitro characterizations to examine the role of the material in dermal extracellular matrix (ECM) secretion of 3D printed structures, and in vivo characterizations to assess its capacity in supporting wound healing.