Sweetening Drug Delivery for Future Therapies: Hydrogels Based on Sugars for Biomedical Applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Pharmacy

Abstract

Hydrogels are 3D, cross-linked networks of water-soluble polymers, and formulated in a variety of physical forms (slabs, microparticles, nanoparticles...). Hydrogels show great promise in biomedical applications, drug delivery in particular, but also in clinical practice and experimental medicine for a wide range of applications (tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, diagnostics, cellular immobilization, separation of biomolecules or cells). Within the broad chemical family of "sugars", polysaccharides are excellent biopolymers for hydrogel preparation in biomedical contexts: they are non-toxic, water-soluble with high capability for swelling induced by simple chemical modifications, and they can be biodegraded to nontoxic products that are easily assimilated by the body. Great advances in polymer preparation for hydrogels (enzymatic procedures, nanocomposites, etc.) needs to be followed by an understanding at molecular level of the processes of gelation, the role of water, and the impact on final performance. In this project we will use state-of-the-art NMR spectroscopy (solution, solid, and gel state advanced experiments) to deepen our understanding of the molecular details of novel hydrogel materials based on starch and nanocellulose fibres. We will use cutting-edge glycobiology techniques (enzymatic and click chemistry) for functionalisation of nanocrystalline cellulose, prepare advanced materials (nanocomposite and interpenetrating network hydrogels), and will develop novel NMR spectroscopic protocols to understand the structure and dynamics of the biomaterials.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1777178 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2020 Valeria Gabrielli
 
Description Hydrogels are formed by a three-dimensional cross-linked networks of water-soluble polymers and they can be formulated in a variety of physical forms. Due to the high water content, they show great interest as drug delivery systems for local therapy, such as regenerative medicine, as well as in clinical practice and experimental medicine (tissue engineering, diagnostics, cellular immobilization, separation of biomolecules or cells). Among the various possible components, polysaccharides are excellent biopolymers for hydrogel preparation as they are no-toxic, water-soluble, and biodegradable into nontoxic products which are easily assimilated by the body.

Although the high interest on this field from both an academic and industrial prospective, a complete understanding of the gelation and an atomic-detailed knowledge of the role of water in the molecular self-assembly processes is still needed. We have been developing STD NMR based protocols for the understanding the performance of polysaccharide based hydrogels, taking into account the high heterogeneity of those systems.
Exploitation Route This research shows both academic and non-academic applicability. From an academic prospective, the establishment of new NMR methodologies for the study of hydrogels enhance the understanding of the gelation mechanisms. In addition, the development of novel material with tailored and stimuli-triggered properties and biomedical applications will definitively be of interest for industrial purposes.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology