Mechanical and swelling characterization of poly(N-isopropyl acrylamide -co- methoxy poly(ethylene glycol) methacrylate) sol–gels
The dimensional stability and rheological properties of a series of comb-like copolymers of N-isopropyl acrylamide (NIPAAm) and methoxy poly(ethylene glycol) methacrylate (mPEGMA), poly(NIPAAm–co-mPEGMA), with varying poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) graft densities and molecular weights were studied. The thermoresponsive character of the copolymer solutions was investigated by kinetic and equilibrium swelling, as well as by static and dynamic mechanical analysis. Surface response mapping was employed to target particular compositions and concentrations with excellent dimensional stability and a relatively large change in dynamic mechanical properties upon thermoreversible gelation. The mechanical characteristics of the gels depended strongly upon concentration of total polymer and less so upon copolymer ratio. Increased PEG graft density was shown to slow the deswelling rate and increase the equilibrium water content of the gels. Upon gelation at sol concentrations of 1–20 wt.% the materials underwent no deswelling or syneresis and maintained stable gels with a large elastic regime and high yield strain (i.e. elastic and soft but tough), even within the Pascal range of complex shear moduli. These materials are unique in that they maintained a physiologically useful lower critical solution temperature (∼33 °C), despite having a high PEG content. Copolymers with a high PEG content and low polymer fraction were conveniently transparent in the gel phase, allowing visualization of cellular activity without disrupting the microenvironment. Mesenchymal stem cells showed good viability and proliferation in three-dimensional culture within the gels, despite the lack of ligand incorporation to promote cellular interaction. Multi-component matrices can be created through simple mixing of copolymer solutions and peptide-conjugated linear polymers and proteins to produce combinatorial microenvironments with the potential for use in cell biology, tissue engineering and medical applications.
Journal: Acta Biomaterialia - Volume 6, Issue 4, April 2010, Pages 1307–1318