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A simple method for the production of large volume 3D macroporous hydrogels for advanced biotechnological, medical and environmental applications

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      Abstract

      The development of bulk, three-dimensional (3D), macroporous polymers with high permeability, large surface area and large volume is highly desirable for a range of applications in the biomedical, biotechnological and environmental areas. The experimental techniques currently used are limited to the production of small size and volume cryogel material. In this work we propose a novel, versatile, simple and reproducible method for the synthesis of large volume porous polymer hydrogels by cryogelation. By controlling the freezing process of the reagent/polymer solution, large-scale 3D macroporous gels with wide interconnected pores (up to 200  μm in diameter) and large accessible surface area have been synthesized. For the first time, macroporous gels (of up to 400 ml bulk volume) with controlled porous structure were manufactured, with potential for scale up to much larger gel dimensions. This method can be used for production of novel 3D multi-component macroporous composite materials with a uniform distribution of embedded particles. The proposed method provides better control of freezing conditions and thus overcomes existing drawbacks limiting production of large gel-based devices and matrices. The proposed method could serve as a new design concept for functional 3D macroporous gels and composites preparation for biomedical, biotechnological and environmental applications.

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      Most cited references 14

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      Polymeric cryogels as promising materials of biotechnological interest.

      Cryogels are gel matrices that are formed in moderately frozen solutions of monomeric or polymeric precursors. Cryogels typically have interconnected macropores (or supermacropores), allowing unhindered diffusion of solutes of practically any size, as well as mass transport of nano- and even microparticles. The unique structure of cryogels, in combination with their osmotic, chemical and mechanical stability, makes them attractive matrices for chromatography of biological nanoparticles (plasmids, viruses, cell organelles) and even whole cells. Polymeric cryogels are efficient carriers for the immobilization of biomolecules and cells.
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        Macroporous gels prepared at subzero temperatures as novel materials for chromatography of particulate-containing fluids and cell culture applications.

        Macroporous gels (MGs) with a broad variety of morphologies are prepared using the cryotropic gelation technique, i. e. gelation at subzero temperatures. These highly elastic hydrophilic materials can be produced from practically any gel-forming system with a broad range of porosity extending from elastic and porous gels with pore sizes up to 1.0 microm to elastic and sponge-like gels with pore sizes up to 100 microm. The versatility of the cryogelation technique is demonstrated by use of different chemical reactions (hydrogen bond formation, chemical cross-linking of polymers, free radical polymerization) mainly in an aqueous medium. Appropriate control over solvent crystallization (formation of solvent crystals) and rate of chemical reaction during the cryogelation allows the reproducible preparation of cryogels with tailored properties. Different approaches, such as chemical modification of reactive groups, grafting of the pore surface with an appropriate polymer, or direct copolymerization with functional monomers are used for control of the surface chemistry of MGs. Typically, MGs with pore sizes up to 1.0 microm are produced in the shape of beads and MGs with pore size up to 100 microm are prepared as monoliths, discs, and sheets. The difference in porous structure of MGs defines the main applications of these porous materials. Elastic beaded MGs are mostly used as carriers for cell and enzyme immobilization or for capture of low-molecular weight targets from particulate-containing fluids in expanded-bed mode. However, the elastic and sponge-like MG monoliths with interconnected pores measuring hundreds of mum have been successfully used as monolithic columns for chromatography of particulate-containing fluids (crude cell homogenates, viruses, whole cells, wastewater effluents) and as three-dimensional scaffolds for mammalian cell culture applications.
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          Cell separation using cryogel-based affinity chromatography.

          In cell affinity chromatography, type-specific cell separation is based on the interaction between cell-surface receptors and an immobilized ligand on a stationary matrix. This protocol describes the preparation of monolithic polyacrylamide and polydimethylacrylamide cryogel affinity matrices that can be used as a generic type-specific cell separation approach. The supermacroporous monolithic cryogel has highly interconnected large pores (up to 100 μm) for convective migration of large particles such as mammalian cells. In this protocol, they are functionalized to immobilize a protein A ligand by a two-step derivatization of epoxy-containing cryogel monolith (reaction with ethylenediamine and glutaraldehyde). Target cells were labeled with specific antibodies and then they were captured in the cryogel through affinity with protein A. These specifically captured cells were recovered in high yields while retaining their viability by mechanical squeezing of the spongy and elastic cryogel matrices. The suggested cell separation protocol takes < 30 min for complete separation on a preprepared protein A-immobilized cryogel column.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Brighton , Huxley Building, Lewes Road, Brighton, BN2 4GJ, UK
            [2 ]School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton , Cockcroft Building, Lewes Road, Brighton, BN2 4GJ, UK
            [3 ]School of Engineering, Nazarbayev University , Astana, 010000, Kazakhstan
            Author notes
            Journal
            Sci Rep
            Sci Rep
            Scientific Reports
            Nature Publishing Group
            2045-2322
            17 February 2016
            2016
            : 6
            26883390 4756301 srep21154 10.1038/srep21154
            Copyright © 2016, Macmillan Publishers Limited

            This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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