Scientific reports

Design and performance of a sericin-alginate interpenetrating network hydrogel for cell and drug delivery.

PMID 26205586


Although alginate hydrogels have been extensively studied for tissue engineering applications, their utilization is limited by poor mechanical strength, rapid drug release, and a lack of cell adhesive ability. Aiming to improve these properties, we employ the interpenetrating hydrogel design rationale. Using alginate and sericin (a natural protein with many unique properties and a major component of silkworm silk), we develop an interpenetrating polymer network (IPN) hydrogel comprising interwoven sericin and alginate double networks. By adjusting the sericin-to-alginate ratios, IPNs' mechanical strength can be adjusted to meet stiffness requirements for various tissue repairs. The IPNs with high sericin content show increased stability during degradation, avoiding pure alginate's early collapse. These IPNs have high swelling ratios, benefiting various applications such as drug delivery. The IPNs sustain controlled drug release with the adjustable rates. Furthermore, these IPNs are adhesive to cells, supporting cell proliferation, long-term survival and migration. Notably, the IPNs inherit sericin's photoluminescent property, enabling bioimaging in vivo. Together, our study indicates that the sericin-alginate IPN hydrogels may serve as a versatile platform for delivering cells and drugs, and suggests that sericin may be a building block broadly applicable for generating IPN networks with other biomaterials for diverse tissue engineering applications.