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Poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogels formed by thiol-ene photopolymerization for enzyme-responsive protein delivery.


Degradable hydrogels have been extensively used in biomedical applications such as drug delivery, and recent interest has grown in hydrogels that degrade in recognition of a cellular response. This contribution describes a poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrogel platform with human neutrophil elastase (HNE) sensitive peptide cross-links formed using thiol-ene photopolymerization rendering the gel degradable at sites of inflammation. Further, protein therapeutics can be physically entrapped within the network and selectively released upon exposure to HNE. HNE-responsive hydrogels exhibited surface erosion where the degradation kinetics was influenced by changes in peptide k(cat), concentration of HNE, and concentration of peptide within the gel. Using this platform, we were able to achieve controlled, zero-order release of bovine serum albumin (BSA) in the presence of HNE, and release was arrested in the absence of HNE. To further exploit the advantages of surface eroding delivery systems, a smaller protein (carbonic anhydrase) was delivered at the same rate as BSA and only dependent on gel formulation and environmental conditions. Also, protein release was predicted from a 3-layered hydrogel device using mass loss data. Lastly, the bioactivity of lysozyme was maintained above 90% following the exposure to thiol-ene photopolymerization conditions.