Stretchable, anti-bacterial hydrogel activated by large mechanical deformation

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Hydrogels have been used extensively to deliver functional molecular cargos in response to external mechanical force. However, the intrinsic brittleness of gels restricts the applicable range of strain to 0.1, thus limiting the range of molecular release rate that may be controlled. Also, uncontrollable molecular diffusion, which is especially prominent in small molecules, reduces the role of mechanical stimulus on the release rate. As such, we hypothesized that these challenges would be resolved by combining cyclodextrin, which may form guest-host complexes with small molecular cargos, with a stretchable hydrogel system. We examined this hypothesis by synthesizing cyclodextrin acrylate and incorporating it into a polyacrylamide gel that can be stretched by 100% of its original length. In the absence of external stretching, hydrogels containing cyclodextrin acrylate with a degree of acryloyl group substitution (DSA) of 2.3 presented a lower molecular release rate than hydrogels without cyclodextrin acrylate. More interestingly, the polyacrylamide-cyclodextrin hydrogel system displayed an increased molecular release rate corresponding to the degree of stretching, particularly in the gels containing cyclodextrin acrylate with a DSA of 2.3. As such, this stretchable gel loaded with quinine was used to inhibit the growth of E. coli in lysogeny broth only when the gel was stretched. We believe the results of this study would be valuable for improving the quality of controlled molecular delivery and subsequent efficacy of molecular cargos.Graphical abstract

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