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A shortage of available organ donors has created a need for engineered tissues. In this context, polymer-based hydrogels that break down inside the body are often used as constructs for growth factors and cells. Herein, we report imine cross-linked gels where degradation is controllable by the introduction of mixed imine cross-links. Specifically, hydrazide-functionalized poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) reacts with aldehyde-functionalized PEG (PEG-CHO) to form hydrazone linked hydrogels that degrade quickly in media. The time to degradation can be controlled by changing the structure of the hydrazide group or by introducing hydroxylamines to form nonreversible oxime linkages. Hydrogels containing adipohydrazide-functionalized PEG (PEG-ADH) and PEG-CHO were found to degrade more rapidly than gels formed from carbodihydrazide-functionalized PEG (PEG-CDH). Incorporating oxime linkages via aminooxy-functionalized PEG (PEG-AO) into the hydrazone cross-linked gels further stabilized the hydrogels. This imine cross-linking approach should be useful for modulating the degradation characteristics of 3D cell culture supports for controlled cell release.

Natalie Boehnke, Cynthia Cam, Erhan Bat, Tatiana Segura, Heather D Maynard

Boehnke N, Cam C, Bat E, Segura T, Maynard HD