International journal of biological macromolecules

pH responsive poly amino-acid hydrogels formed via silk sericin templating.

PMID 25073107


Poly(amino acid) hydrogels have attracted a great deal of attention as biodegradable biomaterials that can limit products of synthetic polymer degradation. Here we report on a stimuli-responsive, porous, composite biomaterial based on the protein templating of the poly(amino acid) hydrogel from poly(aspartic acid) with the silk protein sericin. This low-cost, biocompatible and biodegradable hydrogel demonstrates a greatly increased porosity and improvement in volumetric swelling over networks formed from pure poly(aspartic acid). The swelling capacity measured over a range of pH values surrounding physiological pH 7.0 demonstrates a linear profile, in which hydrogel volume and mass increase to a maximum, with an increase as a function of higher sericin content. In comparison to pure poly(aspartic acid), this demonstrates a nearly 3-fold increase in retention volume at basic pH. The increase in swelling is also demonstrated by the increase in porosity and internal micro-architecture of the hydrogel networks. The biomaterial is then shown to perform well as a scaffold for cells with high mechanical strength and integrity. This protein- and homo poly(amino acid)-based super-swelling hydrogel has applications in drug delivery and tissue engineering as an economical and environmentally friendly biomaterial, in addition to ensuring the species incorporated maintain their biocompatibility during processing.