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Self-Assembly of Thermoresponsive Recombinant Silk-Elastinlike Nanogels

ABSTRACT

Recombinant silk-elastinlike protein polymers (SELPs) combine the biocompatibility and thermoresponsiveness of human tropoelastin with the strength of silk. Direct control over structure of these monodisperse polymers allows for precise correlation of structure with function. This work describes the fabrication of the first SELP nanogels and evaluation of their physicochemical properties and thermoresponsiveness. Self-assembly of dilute concentrations of SELPs results in nanogels with enhanced stability over micelles due to physically crosslinked beta-sheet silk segments. The nanogels respond to thermal stimuli via size changes and aggregation. Modifying the ratio and sequence of silk to elastin in the polymer backbone results in alterations in critical gel formation concentration, stability, aggregation, size contraction temperature, and thermal reversibility. The nanogels sequester hydrophobic compounds and show promise in delivery of bioactive agents.