Stiff gelatin hydrogels can be photo-chemically synthesized from low viscous gelatin solutions using molecularly functionalized gelatin with a high degree of methacrylation
Gelatin is a very promising matrix material for in vitro cell culture and tissue engineering, e.g. due to its native RGD content. For the generation of medical soft tissue implants chemical modification of gelatin improves the mechanical properties of gelatin hydrogels and the viscous behavior of gelatin solutions for liquid handling. We present a systematic study on the influence of high degrees of methacrylation on the properties of gelatin solutions and photo-chemically crosslinked hydrogels. Changes from shear thinning to shear thickening behavior of gelatin solutions were observed depending on mass fraction and degree of methacrylation. Degrees of swelling of crosslinked hydrogels ranged from 194 to 770 % and storage moduli G' from 368 to 5 kPa, comparable to various natural tissues including several types of cartilage. Crosslinked gels proofed to be cytocompatible according to extract testings based on DIN ISO 10933-5 and in contact with porcine chondrocytes.