Degradable poly(ethylene glycol) based hydrogels for pulmonary drug delivery and in vitro T cell differentiation applications
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Hydrogels, defined as three-dimensional, hydrophilic networks, offer extensive biomedical applications. The areas of application are heavily concentrated in drug delivery and tissue engineering because of the hydrogels’ ability to mimic extracellular matrixes of tissue while maintaining a high level of biocompatibility. Specifically, poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) is a well-established biomaterial in hydrogel applications due to its high water-solubility, low toxicity, high biocompatibility, and stealth properties. This thesis discusses two applications of PEG-based degradable hydrogels. The first is the targeted, site-specific, controlled release of biologic drugs administered by inhalation. There are many challenges to designing a pulmonary delivery system for inhalation of biologic drugs such as low respirable fractions and short resident time in the lungs. In this report, the hydrogel microcarriers for encapsulated drugs were formed by cross-linked PEG and peptide sequences synthesized during a mild emulsion process. The microgels underwent freeze-drying in the presence of cryoprotectants and formulated for dry powder inhalation. The microgels displayed swelling properties to avoid local macrophage clearance in the lungs and exhibited triggered release and degradation in response to enzyme for disease specific release. Dry formulations were tested for aerosolization properties and indicated ability to be delivered to the deep lung by a dry powder inhaler. Lastly, microgels were successfully delivered to mice lungs via intratracheal aerosol delivery. This thesis also discusses the use of PEG-based hydrogel as a biomaterial microenvironment for encapsulated stem cells as a means of in vitro T cell differentiation. A 3D hydrogel system creates a biomimetic reconstruction of the cell’s natural microenvironment and allows us to adjust factors such as ligand density and mechanical properties of the hydrogel in order to promote cells differentiation. This report utilizes hydrogels of cross-linked hyaluronic acid and PEG to encapsulate mice bone marrow hematopoietic progenitor cells in the presence of notch ligands, displayed through stromal cells, magnetic microbeads, or immobilized within the hydrogel matrix. Mechanical properties of the hydrogels were tested and the release of encapsulated cells was performed by enzymatic degradation or dissolution. The differentiation data obtained indicated successful differentiation of stem cells into early T cells through the hydrogel system.