A multiscale coarse-grained model to predict the molecular architecture and drug transport properties of modified chitosan hydrogels†
Hydrogels constructed with functionalized polysaccharides are of interest in a multitude of applications, chiefly the design of therapeutic and regenerative formulations. Tailoring the chemical modification of polysaccharide-based hydrogels to achieve specific drug release properties involves the optimization of many tunable parameters, including (i) the type, degree (χ), and pattern of the functional groups, (ii) the water–polymer ratio, and (iii) the drug payload. To guide the design of modified polysaccharide hydrogels for drug release, we have developed a computational toolbox that predicts the structure and physicochemical properties of acylated chitosan chains, and their impact on the transport of drug molecules. Herein, we present a multiscale coarse-grained model to investigate the structure of networks of chitosan chains modified with acetyl, butanoyl, or heptanoyl moieties, as well as the diffusion of drugs doxorubicin (Dox) and gemcitabine (Gem) through the resulting networks. The model predicts the formation of different network structures, in particular the hydrophobically-driven transition from a uniform to a cluster/channel morphology and the formation of fibers of chitin chains. The model also describes the impact of structural and physicochemical properties on drug transport, which was confirmed experimentally by measuring Dox and Gem diffusion through an ensemble of modified chitosan hydrogels.