Mechanically Durable and Biologically Favorable Protein Hydrogel Based on Elastic Silklike Protein Derived from Sea Anemone

As biodegradable scaffolds, protein hydrogels have considerable potential, particularly for bioartificial organs and three-dimensional space-filling materials. However, their low strength and stiffness have been considered to be limitations for enduring physiological stimuli. Therefore, protein hydrogels have been commonly utilized as delivery vehicles rather than as supporting materials. In this work, sea anemone tentacle-derived recombinant silk-like protein (aneroin) was evaluated as a potential material for a mechanically durable protein hydrogel. Inspired by the natural hardening mechanism, photoinitiated dityrosine cross-linking was employed to fabricate an aneroin hydrogel. It was determined that the fabricated aneroin hydrogel was approximately 10-fold stiffer than mammalian cardiac or skeletal muscle. The aneroin hydrogel provided not only structural support but also an adequate environment for cells. It exhibited an adequate swelling ability and microstructure, which are beneficial for facilitating mass transport and cell proliferation. Based on its mechanical and biological properties, this aneroin hydrogel could be used in various biomedical applications, such as cell-containing patches, biomolecule carriers, and artificial extracellular matrices.