We report formation of biocompatible hydrogels using physically cross-linked biopolymers. Gelation of silk fibroin (from B. mori silkworm) aqueous solution was effected by ultrasonication and used to entrap blended, un-cross- linked, hyaluronic acid (HA) without chemical cross-linking. HA was formed into silk/HA blended hydrogels with different mixing ratios, forming homogeneous materials with stable swelling behavior when the HA content was less than 40 wt %. This is a novel approach to HA hydrogel systems, which otherwise require chemical cross-linking. Further, these systems exploit the beneficial material and biological properties of both polymers. Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), temperature modulated DSC, and thermal gravimetric analysis were used to show that well-blended silk/HA hydrogel systems formed without macrophase separation. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy was used to determine secondary structures from the amide I region of silk protein by spectral subtraction and Fourier-self-deconvolution. The β-sheet crystal fraction of the silk protein increased with increase of HA content (26-35 wt %), which resulted in stable, crystalline features in the blend hydrogel materials, favorable features to support human mesenchymal stem cell attachment and proliferation. Scanning electron microscopy was used to characterize morphology. β-Sheet content controlled the stability of the silk/HA hydrogel systems, with a minimum crystalline content needed to maintain a stable hydrogel system of ̃26 wt %. This value is close to the β-sheet content in pure silk fibroin hydrogels. These novel nonchemically cross-linked blend hydrogels may be useful for biomedical applications due to biocompatibility and the widespread utility of hydrogel systems. The attributes of HA in combination with the features of silk, offer a useful suite of properties, combining the mechanical integrity and slow degradation of silk with the control of water interactions and biological signaling of HA.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Chemistry
- Polymers and Plastics