Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)-based dual-crosslinking biohybrid injectable hydrogels for vascularization

Amrita Pal, Cameron I. Smith, Joanna Palade, Supriya Nagaraju, Byron A. Alarcon-Benedetto, Jacquelyn Kilbourne, Alan Rawls, Jeanne Wilson-Rawls, Brent L. Vernon, Mehdi Nikkhah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Injectable hydrogels provide a powerful and non-invasive approach for numerous applications in cell transplantation, growth factor delivery, tissue regeneration and so forth. The properties of injectable hydrogels should be well-tuned for specific applications, where their overall design should ensure biocompatibility, non-toxicity, robust mechanical properties, and most importantly the ability to promote vascularization and integration with the host tissue/organ. Among these criteria, vascularization remains a key design element in the development of functional therapeutic hydrogels for successful translation into clinical settings. To that end, there is still a critical need for the development of the next generation of injectable hydrogels with precisely tuned biophysical and biochemical properties which could simultaneously promote tissue vascularization. In this work, we developed a temperature responsive, dual-crosslinking, biohybrid hydrogels, modified with a vasculogenic peptide for applications in regenerative medicine, specifically tissue vascularization. The synthesized hydrogels consisted of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)-based copolymer, functionalized gelation and angiogenic VEGF-mimetic QK peptide with enhanced shear-thinning and injectability properties. QK peptide is a VEGF-mimetic vasculogenic peptide which binds to VEGF receptors and activates intercellular pathway for vascularization. Apart from the presence of QK peptide, the mechanical properties of the hydrogels were precisely tuned by altering the polymer concentration, enabling successful assembly and endothelial cell network formation. Extended in vitro studies demonstrated successful encapsulation and homogeneous distribution of endothelial cells within the three-dimensional (3D) environment of the hydrogel matrix with significantly enhanced vascularization in presence of the QK peptide as early as 3 days of culture. A small, preliminary in vivo study in mice showed a trend of increased blood vessel formation in hydrogels that incorporated the QK peptide. Overall, our study presents the design and characterization of injectable, dual-crosslinking and vasculogenic hydrogels with controlled properties which could be utilized for numerous applications in regenerative medicine, minimally invasive cell and drug delivery as well as fundamental studies on tissue vascularization and angiogenesis. Statement of Significance: In this work, we synthesized a new class of temperature responsive, dual-crosslinking, biohybrid injectable hydrogels with enhanced vascularization properties for broad applications in regenerative medicine and minimally invasive cell/drug delivery. The developed hydrogels properly accommodated 3D culture, assembly and network formation of endothelial cells, as evidenced by in vitro and in vivo studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-151
Number of pages14
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Apr 15 2020


  • Biohybrid
  • Dual crosslinking
  • Hydrogel
  • Injectable
  • Vascularization
  • Vasculogenic peptide
  • poly(NIPAAm)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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