DOI: 10.3390/gels10010006 ISSN: 2310-2861

Biomimetic Gradient Hydrogels with High Toughness and Antibacterial Properties

Mingzhu Zeng, Zhimao Huang, Xiao Cen, Yinyu Zhao, Fei Xu, Jiru Miao, Quan Zhang, Rong Wang
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Bioengineering

Traditional hydrogels, as wound dressings, usually exhibit poor mechanical strength and slow drug release performance in clinical biomedical applications. Although various strategies have been investigated to address the above issues, it remains a challenge to develop a simple method for preparing hydrogels with both toughness and controlled drug release performance. In this study, a tannic acid-reinforced poly (sulfobetaine methacrylate) (TAPS) hydrogel was fabricated via free radical polymerization, and the TAPS hydrogel was subjected to a simple electrophoresis process to obtain the hydrogels with a gradient distribution of copper ions. These gradient hydrogels showed tunable mechanical properties by changing the electrophoresis time. When the electrophoresis time reached 15 min, the hydrogel had a tensile strength of 368.14 kPa, a tensile modulus of 16.17 kPa, and a compressive strength of 42.77 MPa. It could be loaded at 50% compressive strain and then unloaded for up to 70 cycles and maintained a constant compressive stress of 1.50 MPa. The controlled release of copper from different sides of the gradient hydrogels was observed. After 6 h of incubation, the hydrogel exhibited a strong bactericidal effect on Gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus and Gram-negative Escherichia coli, with low toxicity to NIH/3T3 fibroblasts. The high toughness, controlled release of copper, and enhanced antimicrobial properties of the gradient hydrogels make them excellent candidates for wound dressings in biomedical applications.

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