Nanofiber-reinforced bulk hydrogel: preparation and structural, mechanical, and biological properties†
Alginate-based hydrogels are increasingly being used as biomaterials for tissue engineering, drug carriers, and wound dressing; however, their poor mechanical strength limits their applications. Nanofiber reinforcement is an effective method for increasing the mechanical strength of hydrogels. However, the macro preparation of nanofiber-reinforced hydrogels with a bulk structure is challenging. Herein, we describe the fabrication of nanofiber-reinforced bulk alginate hydrogel composites. The mechanical properties of hydrogels were significantly improved, and the reinforcement law of nanofiber was systematically studied. The maximum tensile stress (0.76 MPa) was obtained with 30% nanofiber content, which was 87% higher than that of pure alginate hydrogel. The compressive stress of the composite hydrogel exhibited “J-curve” behavior with gradually increasing nanofiber content, which indicated that the composited hydrogels were suitable as biomaterials. Furthermore, in 2 h, the hydrogels killed more than 90% of the bacteria that were present, and the bacteriostatic rate reached 100% after 12 h of treatment. More importantly, the sterile environment continued to be maintained, and the composited hydrogel also had satisfactory cytocompatibility and cell adhesion. Compared with pure alginate hydrogel, the roughness of the composited hydrogel surface was increased, which resulted in stronger cell adhesion. Therefore, the composite hydrogel demonstrated improved mechanical and biological properties, and exhibited the potential for clinical application.