Biomaterials, Biodegradables and Biomimetics Research Group

Conference Abstract -ISI Web of Science Indexed

Magnetically responsive tropoelastin hydrogel as a platform for soft tissue regeneration applications


The natural polymer tropoelastin is a structural protein of ECM of tissues requiring elasticity as part of their function, including ligaments and tendons. Tropoelastin has an innate capacity of self-assembly into high-order structures, and together with elastic resilience, structural stability and bioactivity bring forth pleasant singularities in adopting it as a building block to fabricate hydrogels. Moreover, easy tailoring of properties can be attained via incorporation of specific components into the polymeric network, including magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs), which are beneficial for on-demand therapies. Thus, the main goal of this work consisted in developing a magnetically responsive tropoelastin (MagTro) hydrogel as a platform to study the response of tendon cells to a mechanical stimulus induced by application of an external magnetic field (EMF). For this purpose, to first produce hydrogels, a solution of recombinant human tropoelastin was first freeze-dried overnight inside a mould and then chemically cross-linked inside an open desiccator via vapour glutaraldehyde. Thereafter, MagTro hydrogels were obtained through in situ precipitation of MNPs by immersing tropoelastin hydrogels in FeCl2 and FeCl3 solution overnight and secondly by soaking them in NaOH. Hydrogels were then analysed morphologically by Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM and Cryo-SEM). Enzyme-triggered degradation was studied after 72h at 37oC in a human neutrophil elastase solution. Hydrogels exhibited a quick magnetic responsiveness to an EMF (Fig.1). Interestingly, MagTro hydrogels exhibited smaller pores as observed by Cryo-SEM. This feature can be tuned according to different soft tissue requirements by controlling different parameters of the fabrication process. Additionally, the release of tropoelastin into solution decreased, which suggests the formation of a surface coating of MNPs on tropoelastin network, protecting the hydrogel from a faster degradation. Preliminary results also indicate that cultured cells are viable and spread at the surface of the hydrogel. The application of an EMF to cell-laden MagTro hydrogels will be further investigated.

Overall, the streamlined fabrication of MagTro hydrogels was successfully attained and the hydrogel formulation represents a promising potential platform for soft tissue regeneration. 

European Cells and Materials
Magnetic hydrogel, Tendon, Tropoelastin
Open Access
Peer Reviewed
Year of Publication
Date Published
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