Institute of Crystallography - CNR

Incorporation of PEG Diacrylates (PEGDA) Generates Hybrid Fmoc-FF Hydrogel Matrices

Generated by a hierarchical and multiscale self-assembling phenomenon, peptide-based hydrogels (HGs) are soft materials useful for a variety of applications. Short and ultra-short peptides are intriguing building blocks for hydrogel fabrication. These matrices can also be obtained by mixing low-molecular-weight peptides with other chemical entities (e.g., polymers, other peptides). The combination of two or more constituents opens the door to the development of hybrid systems with tunable mechanical properties and unexpected biofunctionalities or morphologies. For this scope, the formulation, the multiscale analysis, and the supramolecular characterization of novel hybrid peptide-polymer hydrogels are herein described. The proposed matrices contain the Fmoc-FF (N-alpha-fluorenylmethyloxycarbonyl diphenylalanine) hydrogelator at a concentration of 0.5 wt% (5.0 mg/mL) and a diacrylate alpha-/omega-substituted polyethylene-glycol derivative (PEGDA). Two PEGDA derivatives, PEGDA 1 and PEGDA2 (mean molecular weights of 575 and 250 Da, respectively), are mixed with Fmoc-FF at different ratios (Fmoc-FF/PEGDA at 1/1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10 mol/mol). All the multicomponent hybrid peptide-polymer hydrogels are scrutinized with a large panel of analytical techniques (including proton relaxometry, FTIR, WAXS, rheometry, and scanning electronic microscopy). The matrices were found to be able to generate mechanical responses in the 2-8 kPa range, producing a panel of tunable materials with the same chemical composition. The release of a model drug (Naphthol Yellow S) is reported too. The tunable features, the different topologies, and the versatility of the proposed materials open the door to the development of tools for different applicative areas, including diagnostics, liquid biopsies and responsive materials. The incorporation of a diacrylate function also suggests the possible development of interpenetrating networks upon cross-linking reactions. All the collected data allow a mutual comparison between the different matrices, thus confirming the significance of the hybrid peptide/polymer-based methodology as a strategy for the design of innovative materials.

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Rosa, Elisabetta; Gallo, Enrico; Sibillano, Teresa; Giannini, Cinzia; Rizzuti, Serena; Gianolio, Eliana; Scognamiglio, Pasqualina Liana; Morelli, Giancarlo; Accardo, Antonella; Diaferia, Carlo