Controlling rigidity and degradation of alginate hydrogels via molecular weight distribution

Hyun Joon Kong, Darnell Kaigler, Kibum Kim, David J. Mooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mechanical rigidity and degradation rate of hydrogels utilized as cell transplantation vehicles have been regarded as critical factors in new tissue formation. However, conventional approaches to accelerate the degradation rate of gels deteriorate their function as a mechanical support in parallel. We hypothesized that adjusting the molecular weight distribution of polymers that are hydrolytically labile but capable of forming gels would allow one to alter the degradation rate of the gels over a broad range, while limiting the range of their elastic moduli (E). We investigated this hypothesis with binary alginate hydrogels formed from both ionically and covalently cross-linked partially oxidized (1% uronic acid residues), low [molecular weight (MW) ∼ 60 000 g/mol] and high MW alginates (MW ∼ 120 000 g/mol) in order to examine the utility of this approach with various cross-linking strategies. Increasing the fraction of low MW alginates to 0.50 maintained a value of E similar to that for the high MW alginate gels but led to faster degradation, irrespective of the cross-linking mode. This result was attributed to a faster separation between cross-linked domains upon chain breakages for the low MW alginates, coupled with their faster chain scission than the high MW alginates. The more rapidly degrading oxidized binary hydrogels facilitated the formation of new bone tissues from transplanted bone marrow stromal cells, as compared with the nonoxidized high MW hydrogels. The results of these studies will be useful for controlling the physical properties of a broad array of hydrogel-forming polymers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1720-1727
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Controlling rigidity and degradation of alginate hydrogels via molecular weight distribution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this