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Multi-component hybrid hydrogels – understanding the extent of orthogonal assembly and its impact on controlled release

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JournalChemical Science
DateAccepted/In press - 18 Aug 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 24 Aug 2017
DatePublished (current) - 1 Oct 2017
Issue number10
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)6981-6990
Early online date24/08/17
Original languageEnglish


This paper reports self-assembled multi-component hybrid hydrogels including a range of nanoscale systems and characterizes the extent to which each component maintains its own unique functionality, demonstrating that multi-functionality can be achieved by simply mixing carefully-chosen constituents. Specifically, the individual components are: (i) pH-activated low-molecular-weight gelator (LMWG) 1,3;2,4-dibenzylidenesorbitol-4′,4′′-dicarboxylic acid (DBS–COOH), (ii) thermally-activated polymer gelator (PG) agarose, (iii) anionic biopolymer heparin, and (iv) cationic self-assembled multivalent (SAMul) micelles capable of binding heparin. The LMWG still self-assembles in the presence of PG agarose, is slightly modified on the nanoscale by heparin, but is totally disrupted by the micelles. However, if the SAMul micelles are bound to heparin, DBS–COOH self-assembly is largely unaffected. The LMWG endows hybrid materials with pH-responsive behavior, while the PG provides mechanical robustness. The rate of heparin release can be controlled through network density and composition, with the LMWG and PG behaving differently in this regard, while the presence of the heparin binder completely inhibits heparin release through complexation. This study demonstrates that a multi-component approach can yield exquisite control over self-assembled materials. We reason that controlling orthogonality in such systems will underpin further development of controlled release systems with biomedical applications.

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© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2017

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