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High Strength Chitosan Hydrogels with Biocompatibility via New Avenue Based on Constructing Nanofibrous Architecture

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journal contribution
posted on 28.04.2015, 00:00 by Jiangjiang Duan, Xichao Liang, Yan Cao, Sen Wang, Lina Zhang
Breaking the limitation of traditional acid dissolving methods for chitosan by creating an alkali/urea hydrogen-bonded chitosan complex, a new solvent (4.5 wt % LiOH/7 wt % KOH/8 wt % urea aqueous solution) was used to successfully dissolve chitosan via the freezing–thawing process, for the first time. Subsequently, high strength hydrogels with unique nanofibrous architecture were constructed from the chitosan alkaline solution. The results from 13C NMR, laser light scattering, atomic force microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy confirmed that chitosan easily aggregated in the solution and could self-assemble in parallel to form perfect regenerated nanofibers induced by heating. At elevated temperature and concentration, the regenerated chitosan nanofibers could entangle and cross-link with each other through hydrogen bonds to form hydrogels. The novel chitosan hydrogels exhibited homogeneous architecture and high strength as a result of the strong networks woven with the compact nanofibers. The compression fracture stress of the chitosan hydrogels was nearly 100 times that of the chitosan hydrogels prepared by the traditional acid dissolving method, revealing that the nanofibrous network microstructures contributed greatly to the reinforcement of the hydrogels. Furthermore, the chitosan hydrogels exhibited excellent biocompatibility and safety as well as a smart controlled drug release behavior triggered by acid. Therefore, we opened up a completely new avenue to construct high strength chitosan hydrogels for applications in biomedicine.