Quantification of substitution of gelatin methacryloyl. Best practice and current pitfalls
Cross-linkable gelatin methacryloyl (GM) is widely used for the generation of artificial extracellular matrix (ECM) in tissue engineering. However, the quantification of modified groups in GM is still an unsolved issue, although this is the key factor for tailoring the physicochemical material properties. In this contribution, 1H-13C-HSQC NMR spectra are used to gain detailed structural information on GMs and of 2-fold modified gelatin containing methacryloyl and acetyl groups (GMAs). Distinctive identification of methacrylate, methacrylamide, and acetyl groups present in GMs and GMAs revealed an overlap of methacrylamide and modified hydroxyproline signals in the 1H NMR spectrum. Considering this, we suggest a method to quantify methacrylate and methacrylamide groups in GMs precisely based on simple 1H NMR spectroscopy with an internal standard. Quantification of acetylation in GMAs is also possible, yet, 2D NMR spectra are necessary. The described methods allow direct quantification of modified groups in gelatin derivatives, making them superior to other, indirect methods known so far.