Trauma sustained to the central nervous system is a debilitating problem for thousands of people worldwide. Neuronal regeneration within the central nervous system is hindered by several factors, making a multi-faceted approach necessary. Two factors contributing to injury are the irregular geometry of injured sites and the absence of tissue to hold potential nerve guides and drug therapies. Biocompatible hydrogels, injectable at room temperature, that rapidly solidify at physiological temperatures (37 degrees C) are beneficial materials that could hold nerve guidance channels in place and be loaded with therapeutic agents to aid wound healing. Our studies have shown that thermoreversible methylcellulose can be combined with agarose to create hydrogel blends that accommodate these properties. Three separate novel hydrogel blends were created by mixing methylcellulose with one of the three different agaroses. Gelation time tests show that the blends solidify at a faster rate than base methylcellulose at 37 degrees C. Rheological data showed that the elastic modulus of the hydrogel blends rapidly increases at 37 degrees C. Culturing experiments reveal that the morphology of dissociated dorsal root ganglion neurons was not altered when the hydrogels were placed onto the cells. The different blends were further assessed using dissolution tests, pore size evaluations using scanning electron microscopy and measuring the force required for injection. This research demonstrates that blends of agarose and methylcellulose solidify much more quickly than plain methylcellulose, while solidifying at physiological temperatures where agarose cannot. These hydrogel blends, which solidify at physiological temperatures naturally, do not require ultraviolet light or synthetic chemical cross linkers to facilitate solidification. Thus, these hydrogel blends have potential use in delivering therapeutics and holding scaffolding in place within the nervous system.
J. Neural Eng.5, 221 (2008).