Micro-structured smart hydrogels with enhanced protein loading and release efficiency

Jian Tao Zhang, Silvia Petersen, Mahendra Thunga, Enrico Leipold, Roland Weidisch, Xiangli Liu, Alfred Fahr, Klaus D. Jandt*

*Corresponding author for this work
46 Citations (Scopus)


A series of temperature-responsive poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm) hydrogels with highly porous microstructures were successfully prepared by using hydrophobic polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and sodium dodecyl sulfate as liquid template and stabilizer, respectively. These newly prepared hydrogels possess highly porous structures. In contrast to the conventional PNIPAAm hydrogel, the swelling ratios of the porous gels at room temperature were higher, and their response rates were significantly faster as the temperature was raised above the lower critical solution temperature. For example, the novel hydrogel prepared with 40% PDMS template lost over 95% water within 5 min, while the conventional PNIPAAm gel only lost approximately 14% water in the same time. The improved properties are achieved due to the presence of liquid PDMS templates in the reaction solutions, which lead to the formation of porous structures during the polymerization/crosslinking. Lysozyme and bovine serum albumin (BSA) as protein models were for the first time loaded into these micro-structured smart hydrogels through a physical absorption method. The experimental results show that the loading efficiency of BSA with a higher molecular weight is lower than that of lysozyme due to the size exclusion effect, and the loading efficiencies of both proteins in the porous hydrogel are much higher than those in the conventional PNIPAAm hydrogel. For example, the loading efficiency of BSA in porous hydrogel is 0.114, approximately 200% higher than that in conventional hydrogel (0.035). Both lysozyme and BSA were completely released from the porous hydrogel at 22 °C. Furthermore, the release kinetics of the proteins from the porous hydrogel could be modulated by tuning the environmental temperature. These newly prepared porous materials provide an avenue to increase the loading efficiency and to control the release patterns of macromolecular drugs from hydrogels, and show great promise for application in protein or gene delivery.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1297-1306
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 04.2010


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