Controlling Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel Properties through Network Topology

Gao, Jie, Tang, Claire, Elsawy, Mohamed orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3964-2150, Smith, Andrew M., Miller, Aline F. and Saiani, Alberto (2017) Controlling Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel Properties through Network Topology. Biomacromolecules, 18 (3). pp. 826-834. ISSN 1525-7797

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Self-assembling peptide-based hydrogels have encountered increasing interest in the recent years as scaffolds for 3D cell culture or for controlled drug delivery. One of the main challenges is the fine control of the mechanical properties of these materials. The bulk properties of hydrogels not only depend on the intrinsic properties of the fibers but also on the network topology formed. In this work we show how fiber–fiber interactions can be manipulated by design to control the final hydrogel network topology and therefore control the final properties of the material. This was achieved by exploiting the design features of β-sheet forming peptides based on hydrophobic and hydrophilic residue alternation and exploiting the ability of the arginine’s guanidine side group to interact with itself and with other amino acid side groups. By designing octa-peptides based on phenylalanine, glutamic acid, lysine, and arginine, we have investigated how fiber association and bundling affect the dynamic shear modulus of hydrogels and how it can be controlled by design. This work opens the possibility to fine-tune by design the bulk properties of peptide hydrogels.

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