3B's Research Group, I3Bs - Research Institute on Biomaterials, Biodegradables and Biomimetics, University of Minho, Headquarters of the European Institute of Excellence on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, AvePark, Parque de Ciência e Tecnologia, Zona Industrial da Gandra, 4805-017 Barco, Guimarães, Portugal; ICVS/3B's - PT Government Associate Laboratory, Braga/Guimarães, Portugal; The Discoveries Centre for Regenerative and Precision Medicine, Headquarters at University of Minho, AvePark, 4805-017 Barco, Guimarães, Portugal. Electronic address: [Email]
In this study, methacrylated gellan-gum (GG-MA) heteropolysaccharide is proposed as a hydrogel for drug delivery and bone tissue engineering applications. Calcium-enriched beads obtained from the crosslinking of 1% (w/v) GG-MA solutions with 0.1 MCaCl2 were investigated, considering their intrinsic capacity to promote self-mineralization by ion binding and deposition. Indeed, when immersed in a physiological environment, the Ca-enriched beads promoted the development of a bone-like apatite layer, as confirmed by EDS and XRD chemical analysis. Additionally, the mild production process is compatible with drugs incorporation and release. After encapsulation, Dextran with different molecular weights as well as Dexamethasone 21-phosphate were efficiently released to the surrounding environment. The engineered system was also evaluated considering its biocompatibility, by means of qualitative determination of total complement activation, macrophage proliferation, cytokine release and in vitro cell culture. These experiments showed that the developed hydrogels may not stimulate a disproportionate pro-inflammatory reaction once transplanted. At last, when implanted subcutaneously in CD1 male mice up to 8 weeks, the beads were completely calcified, and no inflammatory reaction was observed. Summing up, these results show that calcium-enriched GG-MA hydrogel beads hold great potential as news tools for bone tissue regeneration and local drug delivery applications. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: This work describes a low-cost and straightforward strategy to prepare bioactive methacrylated gellan gum (GG-MA) hydrogels, which can be used as drug delivery systems. GG-MA is a highly anionic polymer, that can be crosslinked with divalent ions, as calcium. Taking advantage of this feature, it was possible to prepare Ca-enriched GG-MA hydrogel beads. These beads display a bioactive behavior, since they promote apatite deposition when placed in physiological conditions. Studies on the immune response suggest that the developed beads do not trigger severe immune responses. Importantly, the mild processing method render these beads compliant with drug delivery strategies, paving the way for the application of dual-functional materials on bone tissue engineering.