What is it about?

We have investigated various methods of imparting macroscopic pores to hydrogels and investigated the application of these hydrogels to act as scaffolds for cells to grow inside. Natural tissues have intricate structures organized in a hierarchical fashion over multiple length scales (Å to cm). These tissues commonly incorporate pores as a key feature that may regulate cell behavior. To enable the development of tissues scaffolds with biomimetic pore structures, it is important to investigate methods to impart pores to biomaterials, such as the use of novel sacrificial porogens. Here we report the use of sacrificial crystals to impart pores to biopolymer hydrogels (based on a methacrylated hyaluronic acid derivative) with macroscopic crystal templated pores embedded within them. The pore structure was investigated using microscopy (cryoSEM and confocal), and the specific sacrificial porogen used was found not only to impact the pore structure, but also swelling and mechanical properties. Such templated hydrogels have prospects for application as instructive tissue scaffolds (where the pore structure controls cell alignment, migration, etc.).

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Why is it important?

• Natural tissues have hierarchically organized pores with length scales (Å to cm). • Sacrificial crystals can be used as templates to impart pores to biopolymer hydrogels. • Amino acids, salts and urea have been successfully used as sacrificial templates.


This was an interesting project to work on because a variety of tissues have pores in them that perform various biological functions (e.g. cell alignment) and the development of novel methods enables engineers and bioscientists new routes to achieve such biological functions in a broad selection of biomaterials.

Dr John George Hardy
Lancaster University

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This page is a summary of: Sacrificial crystal templating of hyaluronic acid-based hydrogels, European Polymer Journal, October 2016, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.eurpolymj.2016.10.022.
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