While click chemistry reactions for biopolymer network formation are attractive as the defined reactions may allow good control of the network formation and enable subsequent functionalization, tailoring of gelatin network properties over a wide range of mechanical properties has yet to be shown. Here, it is demonstrated that copper-catalyzed alkyne-azide cycloaddition of alkyne functionalized gelatin with diazides gave hydrogel networks with properties tailorable by the ratio of diazide to gelatin and diazide rigidity. 4,4′-diazido-2,2′-stilbenedisulfonic acid, which has been used as rigid crosslinker, yielded hydrogels with Young's moduli E of 50–390 kPa and swelling degrees Q of 150–250 vol.%, while the more flexible 1,8-diazidooctane resulted in hydrogels with E = 125–280 kPa and Q = 225–470 vol.%. Storage moduli could be varied by two orders of magnitude (G′ = 100–20,000 Pa). An indirect cytotoxicity test did not show cytotoxic properties. Even when employing 1:1 ratios of alkyne and azide moieties, the hydrogels were shown to contain both, unreacted alkyne groups on the gelatin backbone as well as dangling chains carrying azide groups as shown by reaction with functionalized fluorescein. The free groups, which can be tailored by the employed ratio of the reactants, are accessible for covalent attachment of drugs, as was demonstrated by functionalization with dexamethasone. The sequential network formation and functionalization with click chemistry allows access to multifunctional materials relevant for medical applications.
- Click chemistry
- Polymer functionalization