Recently, supramolecular hydrogels assembled through nonspecific interactions between polymers and nanoparticles (termed PNP systems) were reported to have rapid shear-thinning and self-healing properties amenable for cell-delivery applications in regenerative medicine. Here, we introduce protein engineering concepts into the design of a new family of PNP hydrogels to enable direct control over the polymer-nanoparticle interactions using peptide-based molecular recognition motifs. Specifically, we have designed a bifunctional peptide that induces supramolecular hydrogel assembly between hydroxy apatite nanoparticles and an engineered, recombinant protein. We demonstrate that this supramolecular assembly critically requires molecular recognition, as no assembly is observed in the presence of control peptides with a scrambled amino acid sequence. Titration of the bifunctional peptide enables direct control over the number of physical cross-links within the system and hence the resulting hydrogel mechanical properties. As with previous PNP systems, these materials are rapidly shear-thinning and self-healing. As proof-of-concept, we demonstrate that these materials are suitable for therapeutic cell delivery applications in a preclinical murine calvarial defect model.
View details for DOI 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.6b00286
View details for PubMedID 33440497