Conductive PANi/PEGDA Macroporous Hydrogels For Nerve Regeneration

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Abstract

Only recently polymers with intrinsic conductive properties have been studied in relation to their incorporation into bioactive scaffolds for use in tissue engineering. The reason for this interest is that such scaffolds could electrically stimulate cells and thus regulate specific cellular activities, and by this means influence the process of regeneration of those tissues that respond to electrical impulses. In our work, macroporous hydrogels are developed with controlled pore morphology and conductive properties to enable sufficient cell signaling to supply events inherent to nerve regeneration. A hybrid material has been prepared by in situ precipitation of polyaniline (PANi) in polyethyleneglycol diacrylate (PEGDA) solution, followed by crosslinking via UV irradiation. A porous architecture, characterized by macropores from 136 μm to 158 μm in size, has been achieved by sodium chloride particle leaching. In this work, we demonstrate that PANi synthesis and hydrogel crosslinking combine to enable the design of materials with suitable conductive behaviour. The presence of PANi evidently increased the electrical conductivity of the hybrid material from (1.1 ± 0.5) × 10−3 mS/cm with a PANi content of 3wt%. The hydrophilic nature of PANi also enhanced water retention/proton conductivity by more than one order of magnitude. In vitro studies confirmed that 3 wt% PANi also improve the biological response of PC12 and hMSC cells. Hybrid PANi/PEGDA macroporous hydrogels supplement new functionalities in terms of morphological and conductive properties, both of which are essential prerequisites to drive nerve cells in regenerative processes.

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