A hydrogel is a solid, jelly-like material that consists of a 3D cross-linked network within the liquid. Hydrogels with protein-containing networks are known as protein-based hydrogels. Due to the significant properties of proteins, development of these hydrogels is of central importance in several applications, such as tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
In newly published research, Dr. Zhimou Yang and colleagues in Nankai University report the design and engineering of a recombinant protein that possessed a hetero hexameric structure. These hetero hexameric proteins contained two kinds of different binding sites; one is used to cross the peptide nanofibers for hydrogelation and the other is utilized to load bioactive molecules for controlled delivery.
Because of the strong interactions between the protein and peptide nanofibers, the hetero hexameric proteins can be used as nanofiber crosslinkers to facilitate hydrogel formation, and are thus encapsulated in the resultant hydrogels. Furthermore, the recombinant proteins are also capable of loading bioactive molecules thanks to their unique structures, affording bioactive molecule-incorporated protein-based hydrogels. The obtained hydrogels could release the bioactive molecules in a controlled and continuous manner.