Year

2013

Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy

Department

School of Chemistry

Abstract

Tissue engineering is an exciting technology that may provide replacement tissue and organs for patients requiring transplantation therapy. Crucial to the preparation of engineering soft tissues is the cellular scaffold which must resemble the cells native environment and be mechanically robust. Hydrogel materials present the greatest potential as candidate materials for soft tissue scaffolds, however, it is very challenging to identify hydrogel materials that satisfy the extensive list of performance criteria required for this application. This thesis describes several hydrogel materials that are prepared from gellan gum and gelatin. The main focus of this thesis is the mechanical characterisation of these materials which is aimed towards addressing the performance criteria of soft tissue scaffold materials. The materials’ degradability, swelling behaviour and gelation behaviour were also focal points of this research.

It was found that genipin cross-linked gelatin hydrogels could be prepared to be thermally stable, self-supporting and degradable, with pH sensitive swelling behaviour that were compatible with endothelial cells. Commercial gellan gum was able to be purified of inorganic contaminants, which improved its gel-forming ability, but diminished its mechanical performance. Ionic-covalent entanglement (ICE) hydrogels of gellan gum and gelatin possessed excellent mechanical strength and a self-recovering ability when subjected to mechanical deformation. The ICE hydrogels were successfully fabricated as microspheric particles, which were subsequently demonstrated to be capable of mechanically reinforcing gelatin hydrogels. These materials may have significance for the field of tissue engineering because of their mechanical potential to be used as soft tissue scaffold materials.

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