The development of a novel elastomeric hydrogel to be used as a wound dressing with high-water content and suitable mechanical properties has great practical significance in healthcare, especially to treat scars and avoid scarring during the healing of excisional wounds. Most of the traditional hydrogel wound dressings have a lack of suitable mechanical properties and reduced stability along the wound healing time. The combination of mechanical resistance, flexibility and toughness in a single approach is highly challenging. Standing up to this challenge, this work explores the development of novel hydrogels made from gellan gum (GG) and elastin (EL). The effect of polymer concentration and incorporation of the elastin component on the mechanical performance and stability of hydrogels of GG hydrogels was investigated. The mechanical behaviour was evaluated using compression tests under static and cyclic loading. The morphological analysis was investigated using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS). The results showed that with increasing polymer concentration, an increase in compressive modulus, compressive strength and toughness was observed. Similarly, with the incorporation of elastin, the hydrogels become mechanically more stable and the elongation at break increase with enhanced strength and toughness. Additionally, stress-strain curves from cyclic compressive tests showed excellent elastic recovery and exhibited the capacity of elastomer hydrogels to return to their original state during the compression cycle. Results obtained from SEM, TEM and EDS confirmed the presence of elastin in the hydrogels, as well as the protein’s characteristic fibrils, responsible for the increase in the elasticity of biological tissues. In summary, the developed hydrogels can be tuned to reach the required mechanical properties and stability, offering significant potential as wound dressing for skin wound healing.
This research was supported by the Portuguese Foundation of Science and Technology (FCT) under the research project Dressing4Scars (ERA-NET/CSA/JPI/M-ERANET). The authors would like to acknowledge The Discoveries Centre for Regenerative and Precision Medicine and the funds for POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007038-UMINHO/BPD/44/2016 (LPS), FCT/MCTES PD/BD/135248/2017 (DPR) and M-ERA-NET2/0013/2016 (MGF) grants. The authors thank Dr Santiago Sevillano (Leica Nanotechnology) the hydrogels preparation for SEM experiments.