Fabrication of homogeneously cross-linked, functional alginate microcapsules validated by NMR-, CLSM- and AFM-imaging
Cross-linked alginate microcapsules of sufficient mechanical strength can immunoisolate cells for the long-term treatment of hormone and other deficiency diseases in human beings. However, gelation of alginate by external Ba2+ (or other divalent cations) produces non-homogeneous cross-linking of the polymeric mannuronic (M) and guluronic (G) acid chains. The stability of such microcapsules is rather limited. Here, we show that homogeneous cross-linking can be achieved by injecting BaCl2 crystals into alginate droplets before they come into contact with external BaCl2. The high effectiveness of this crystal gun method is demonstrated by confocal laser scanning microscopy and by advanced nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. Both techniques gave clear-cut evidence that homogeneous cross-linkage throughout the microcapsule is only obtained with simultaneous internal and external gelation. Atomic force microscopy showed a very smooth surface topography for microcapsules made by the crystal gun method, provided that excess Ba2+ ions were removed immediately after gelation. In vitro experiments showed greatly suppressed swelling for crystal gun microcapsules. Even alginate extracted from Lessonia nigrescens (highly biocompatible) yielded microcapsules with long-term mechanical stability not hitherto possible. Encapsulation of rat islets, human monoclonal antibodies secreting hybridoma cells and murine mesenchymal stem cells transfected with cDNA encoding for bone morphogenetic protein (BMP-4) revealed that injection of BaCl2 crystals has no adverse side effects on cell viability and function. However, the release of low-molecular weight factors (such as insulin) may be delayed when using alginate concentrations in the usual range.
Journal: Biomaterials - Volume 24, Issue 12, May 2003, Pages 2083–2096