Controlled Release of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor from Heparin-Functionalized Gelatin Type A and Albumin Hydrogels
Bio-based release systems for pro-angiogenic growth factors are of interest, to overcome insufficient vascularization and bio-integration of implants. In this study, we investigated heparin-functionalized hydrogels based on gelatin type A or albumin as storage and release systems for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The hydrogels were crosslinked using carbodiimide chemistry in presence of heparin. Heparin-functionalization of the hydrogels was monitored by critical electrolyte concentration (CEC) staining. The hydrogels were characterized in terms of swelling in buffer solution and VEGF-containing solutions, and their loading with and release of VEGF was monitored. The equilibrium degree of swelling (EDS) was lower for albumin-based gels compared to gelatin-based gels. EDS was adjustable with the used carbodiimide concentration for both biopolymers. Furthermore, VEGF-loading and release were dependent on the carbodiimide concentration and loading conditions for both biopolymers. Loading of albumin-based gels was higher compared to gelatin-based gels, and its burst release was lower. Finally, elevated cumulative VEGF release after 21 days was determined for albumin-based hydrogels compared to gelatin A-based hydrogels. We consider the characteristic net charges of the proteins and degradation of albumin during release time as reasons for the observed effects. Both heparin-functionalized biomaterial systems, chemically crosslinked gelatin type A or albumin, had tunable physicochemical properties, and can be considered for controlled delivery of the pro-angiogenic growth factor VEGF.