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The encapsulation and controlled release of proteins from “meltable” chemically cross-linked hydrogels

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Cheney Leung, Dr Gema Dura, Dr Helen WallerORCiD, Professor Jeremy LakeyORCiD, Dr David Fulton



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2024 The Authors. Journal of Applied Polymer Science published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.Chemically crosslinked hydrogels can be used for the controlled delivery of therapeutic proteins, however, cargo loading can be challenging. A common approach involves performing the hydrogel crosslinking step in the presence of the cargo proteins, however, this can require the utilization of selective chemistries to ensure the cargos do not chemically react with the forming hydrogel network. We demonstrate that chemically crosslinked hydrogels based upon the protein polymer Capsular antigen fragment 1 (Caf1) can be used to encapsulate proteins within a chemically crosslinked hydrogel network. This encapsulation exploits the “meltable” feature of Caf1 hydrogels, where upon heating the Caf1 protein unfolds with concomitant depolymerization of the hydrogel network. Protein cargos can be loaded into the “molten” form of the hydrogel which cools with protein refolding and concomitant reformation of the hydrogel network to entrap the cargos, ensuring a more homogenous dispersion of the cargo. Analysis of release profiles indicated lower burst release in comparison to release from identical hydrogels loaded by an absorption method. This work is significant because it suggest that the “meltable” feature of Caf1 hydrogels may present an improved method of loading protein cargos into crosslinked hydrogel networks whilst avoiding the need for crosslinking chemistries.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Leung CCH, Dura G, Waller H, Lakey JH, Fulton DA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Applied Polymer Science

Year: 2024

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 21/03/2024

Acceptance date: 08/03/2024

Date deposited: 10/04/2024

ISSN (print): 0021-8995

ISSN (electronic): 1097-4628

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc


DOI: 10.1002/app.55459


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Funder referenceFunder name
BB/M018318/1Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
European Union
European Regional Development Fund
Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst
Junta de Comunidades de Castilla la Mancha