"Hydrogels are among the most desired biomaterials due to their ability to mimic the native extracellular matrix (ECM) of tissues, cytocompatibility, multifunctionality, tunable gelation, and resilient mechanical properties 1,2. Hydrogels hold the particularity of being responsive to different stimuli (e.g., stress, temperature, pH, and light), which makes them suitable to be applied the controlled delivery in the treatment of different damaged tissues and diseases. Due to their chemistry versatility, injectability and printability, the design and processing of advanced bioinks can also be envisioned. The composition of hydrogels varies from natural, synthetic and composites, but natural-based hydrogels including polysaccharides, proteins and ECM-derived components are most appealing for application in tissue engineering and cells 3D culture. The current research, carried out at the 3B’s Research Group (University of Minho) or under a collaborative effort, involving the design and processing of natural-based hydrogels will be overviewed herein 2,3. The most important advances of the application of hydrogels as injectable hierarchical composite scaffolds and drug- and cell-delivery systems for treating musculoskeletal conditions will be presented 4. Another interesting example dealing with the current design strategies that have been explored to functionalize injectable hydrogels with an imaging modality (e.g., MRI) will be given 5. Finally, the interesting use of natural-based hydrogels as artificial ECM in in vitro tumour models will be also shown 6. Among the natural-origin hydrogels that have been reported, it is now evident that our proprietary gellan gum- and silk fibroin-based hydrogels showed great promise in the pre-clinical studies and may potentially be translated to the markets/clinics in a near future.
The author thanks the financial support provided through the project NanOptoNerv (PTDC/NAN-MAT/29936/2017), financed by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT). The funds provided by JUSThera project (No. NORTE-01-0145-FEDER-000055), supported by Norte Portugal Regional Operational Programme (No. NORTE 2020), through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is also greatly acknowledged.
1. Yan, L.-P. et al., Scientific reports. 6, 31037 (2016).
2. Decante, G., et al., Book Polysaccharides of Microbial Origin, Eds. Oliveira, J.M., Radhouani, H., Reis, R.L., 1-18(2021).
3. Pereira, D. R., et al., Materials Science & Engineering C, 112611 (2021).
4. Vieira, S., et al., ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, 7(10), 4898–4913 (2021).
5. Lopes, S. V., et al., Materials Science & Engineering C, 112575 (2021).
6. Pierantoni, L., et al., Macromolecular Bioscience, (2021)."