Injectable Polysaccharide Hydrogels Reinforced with Cellulose Nanocrystals: Morphology, Rheology, Degradation, and Cytotoxicity
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Injectable hydrogels based on carboxymethyl cellulose and dextran, reinforced with rigid rod-like cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and aldehyde-functionalized CNCs (CHO-CNCs), were prepared and characterized. The mechanical properties, internal morphology, and swelling of injectable hydrogels with unmodified and modified CNCs at various loadings were examined. In all cases, gelation occurred within seconds as the hydrogel components were extruded from a double-barrel syringe, and the CNCs were evenly distributed throughout the composite, as observed by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. When immersed in purified water or 10 mM PBS, all CNC-reinforced hydrogels maintained their original shape for more than 60 days. The maximum storage modulus was observed in hydrogels with 0.250 wt % of unmodified CNCs and 0.375 wt % of CHO-CNCs. CHO-CNCs acted as both a filler and a chemical cross-linker, making the CHO-CNC-reinforced hydrogels more elastic, more dimensionally stable, and capable of facilitating higher nanoparticle loadings compared to hydrogels with unmodified CNCs, without sacrificing mechanical strength. No significant cytotoxicity to NIH 3T3 fibroblast cells was observed for the hydrogels or their individual components. These properties make CNC-reinforced injectable hydrogels of potential interest for various biomedical applications such as drug delivery vehicles or tissue engineering matrices.
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