Effects of PEG hydrogel crosslinking density on protein diffusion and encapsulated islet survival and function.
The rational design of immunoprotective hydrogel barriers for transplanting insulin-producing cells requires an understanding of protein diffusion within the hydrogel network and how alterations to the network structure affect protein diffusion. Hydrogels of varying crosslinking density were formed via the chain polymerization of dimethacrylated PEG macromers of varying molecular weight, andthe diffusion of six model proteins with molecular weights ranging from 5700 to 67,000 g/mol was observed in these hydrogel networks. Protein release profiles were used to estimate diffusion coefficients for each protein/gel system that exhibited Fickian diffusion. Diffusion coefficients were on the order of 10(-6)-10(-7) cm(2)/s, such that protein diffusion time scales (t(d) = L(2)/D) from 0.5-mm thick gels vary from 5 min to 24 h. Adult murine islets were encapsulated in PEG hydrogels of varying crosslinking density, and islet survival and insulin release was maintained after two weeks of culture in each gel condition. While the total insulin released during a 1 h glucose stimulation period was the same from islets in each sample, increasing hydrogel crosslinkingdensity contributed to delays in insulin release from hydrogel samples within the 1 h stimulation period.