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Reducing the foreign body response (FBR) to implanted biomaterials will enhance their performance in tissue engineering. Poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrogels are increasingly popular for this application due to their low cost, ease of use, and the ability to tune their compliance via molecular weight and crosslinking densities. PEG hydrogels can elicit chronic inflammation in vivo, but recent evidence has suggested that extremely hydrophilic, zwitterionic materials and particles can evade the immune system. To combine the advantages of PEG-based hydrogels with the hydrophilicity of zwitterions, we synthesized hydrogels with co-monomers PEG and the zwitterion phosphorylcholine (PC). Recent evidence suggests that stiff hydrogels elicit increased immune cell adhesion to hydrogels, which we attempted to reduce by increasing hydrogel hydrophilicity. Surprisingly, hydrogels with the highest amount of zwitterionic co-monomer elicited the highest FBR we observed. Lowering the hydrogel modulus (165 kPa to 3 kPa), or PC content (20 wt% to 0 wt%), mitigated this effect. A high density of macrophages was found at the surface of implants associated with a high FBR, and mass spectrometry analysis of the proteins adsorbed to these gels implicated extracellular matrix, immune response, and cell adhesion protein categories as drivers of macrophage recruitment to these hydrogels. Overall, we show that modulus regulates macrophage adhesion to zwitterionic-PEG hydrogels, and demonstrate that chemical modifications to hydrogels should be studied in parallel with their physical properties to optimize implant design.


Zwitterionic PEG-PC Hydrogels Modulate the Foreign Body Response in a Modulus-Dependent Manner Lauren E. Jansen, Luke D. Amer, Esther Y.-T. Chen, Thuy V. Nguyen, Leila S. Saleh, Todd Emrick, Wendy F. Liu, Stephanie J. Bryant, and Shelly R. Peyton Biomacromolecules Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/acs.biomac.8b00444.



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