Study of the effect of mixing approach on cross-linking efficiency of hyaluronic acid-based hydrogel cross-linked with 1,4-butanediol diglycidyl ether

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Regardless of various strategies reported for cross-linking hyaluronic acid (HA) with 1,4-butanediol diglycidyl ether (BDDE), seeking new strategies that enhance cross-linking efficiency with a low level of cross-linker is essential. In this work, we studied the influence of mixing approach on two cross-linked BDDE-HA hydrogels prepared by two different mixing approaches; the large-batch mixing approach in which the hydrogel quantities were all mixed as a single lump in one container (hydrogel 1), and the small-batches mixing approach in which the hydrogel quantities were divided into smaller batches, mixed separately at various HA/BDDE ratios then combined in one reaction mixture (hydrogel 2). The result showed that the cross-linking reaction was mixing process-dependent. Degradation tests proved that, in relation to hydrogel 1, hydrogel 2 was more stable, and exhibited a higher resistance towards hyaluronidase activity. The swelling ratio of hydrogel 1 was significantly higher than that of hydrogel 2 in distilled water; however, in phosphate buffer saline, both hydrogels showed no significant difference. SEM images demonstrated that hydrogel 2 composite showed a denser network structure and smaller pore-size than hydrogel 1. In comparison to native HA, the occurrence of chemical modification in the cross-linked hydrogels was confirmed by FTIR and NMR distinctive peaks. These peaks also provided evidence that hydrogel 2 exhibited a higher degree of modification than hydrogel 1. In conclusion, the small-batches mixing approach proved to be more effective than large-batch mixing in promoting HA-HA entanglement and increasing the probability of BDDE molecules for binding with HA chains.

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