Hyaluronic acid hydrogel materials
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is one of the primary chemical building blocks of the extracellular matrix and thus is an attractive material for biomedical applications. FDA approved HA-based materials are available as dermal fillers, joint viscosupplements, vitreous substitutes, and abdominal adhesion barriers. The engineering of new HA-based materials and applications is an active area of research. Here we develop several new types of HA-based hydrogels with unique and useful properties. To address the challenge of delivering hydrophobic drugs from hydrophilic hydrogel matrices we have grafted HA hydrogels with [Beta]-cyclodextrin to create hydrogels capable of binding poorly water soluble drugs. To create HA hydrogels with unique anisotropic swelling behavior we have developed a dual-crosslinking technique in which a super-swelling chemically crosslinked hydrogel is patterned with low-swelling photocrosslinked domains. When this dual-crosslinked hydrogel is swelled it contorts into a new shape because of differential swelling among photopatterned regions. To address the challenge of creating hydrogel scaffolds with biomimetic branched porosity we have invented a "crystal templating" technique. This technique grows dendritic crystals throughout a biopolymer solution, crosslinks the biopolymer around the crystals, and washes the crystals away to yield a hydrogel with a dendritic macroporous network. Lastly, we invented a method for patterning a substrate with a microarray of hydrogel compartments. A microarray of living cells is obtained when cells are seeded on the hydrogel patterned substrate. This method addresses the need for an inexpensive, simple method for obtaining living cell microarrays that does not require clean room labs and lithographic expertise. Each of these new materials were based on hyaluronic acid hydrogels but the methods are generalizable to hydrogels of other polymers too. In conclusion, the novel methods in this dissertation are a significant contribution to the engineering of HA-based materials.