Tissue Response and Biodistribution of Injectable Cellulose Nanocrystal Composite Hydrogels
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Interest in cellulose nanocrystal (CNC)-based hydrogels for drug delivery, tissue engineering, and other biomedical applications has rapidly expanded despite the minimal in vivo research reported to date. Herein, we assess both in vitro protein adsorption and cell adhesion as well as in vivo subcutaneous tissue responses and CNC biodistribution of injectable CNC-poly(oligoethylene glycol methacrylate) (POEGMA) hydrogels. Hydrogels with different PEG side chain lengths, CNC loadings, and with or without in situ magnetic alignment of the CNCs are compared. CNC loading has a minimal impact on protein adsorption but significantly increases cell adhesion. In vivo, both CNC-only and CNC-POEGMA injections largely stay at their subcutaneous injection site over one month, with minimal bioaccumulation of CNCs in any typical clearance organ. CNC-POEGMA hydrogels exhibit mild acute and chronic inflammatory responses, although significant fibroblast penetration was observed with the magnetically aligned hydrogels. Collectively, these results suggest that CNC-POEGMA hydrogels offer promise in practical biomedical applications.
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