Wavelength‐Selective Softening of Hydrogel Networks

Read the full article here: Adv. Mater. 2102184 (2021)

by J. L. Pelloth, P. A. Tran, A. Walther, A. S. Goldmann, H. Frisch, V. X. Truong and C. Barner-Kowollik

Photoresponsive hydrogels hold key potential in advanced biomedical applications including tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and drug

delivery, as well as intricately engineered functions such as biosensing, soft robotics, and bioelectronics. Herein, the wavelength-dependent degradation of bio-orthogonal poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogels is reported,

using three selective activation levels. Specifically, three chromophores are exploited, that is, ortho-nitrobenzene, dimethyl aminobenzene, and bimane, each absorbing light at dierent wavelengths. By examining their photochemical action plots, the wavelength-dependent reactivity of the photocleavable moieties is determined. The wavelength-selective addressability of individual photoreactive units is subsequently translated into hydrogel design, enabling wavelength-dependent cleavage of the hydrogel networks on-demand. Critically, this platform technology allows for the fabrication of various hydrogels, whose mechanical properties can be fine-tuned using dierent colors of light to reach a predefined value, according to the chromophore ratios used. The softening is shown to influence the spreading of pre-osteoblastic cells adhering to the gels as a demonstration of their potential utility. Furthermore, the materials and photodegradation

processes are non-toxic to cells, making this platform attractive for biomaterials engineering.

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