Author(s): Boucard N, Viton C, Domard A
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Abstract New aspects concerning the mechanism of formation of chitosan physical hydrogels without any cross-linking agent were studied. The gelation took place during the evaporation of a hydroalcoholic solution of chitosan. We first demonstrated that it was possible to form a physical hydrogel from a hydrochloride form of chitosan. Chromatographic methods showed that during the gel formation, when the initial concentration is over C, the critical concentration of chain entanglement, the water and acid used for the solubilization of the polymer were both eliminated. This particular situation contributed to decrease the dielectric constant of the medium and the apparent charge density of chitosan chains, thus inducing the formation of a three-dimensional network through hydrophobic interactions and hydrogen bonding. In the gelation process, this step was kinetically determining. The speed of evaporation of water and acid were determined and different initial conditions were compared. Thus, we investigated the influence of: the initial polymer concentration, the nature of the counterion and the alcohol, the temperature and the geometry of the reactor. Our results allowed us to confirm the existence of a second critical initial concentration C, from which the evaporation of water became more difficult. We suggested that C corresponded to a reorganization of the solution involving the presence of gel precursors. Then, a mechanism of formation of physical hydrogels of chitosan in a hydroalcoholic medium could be proposed. For the first time, we demonstrated that it was possible to generate physical hydrogels in the presence of various diols, which size of the carbonated chain appeared as a limiting factor for the gelation process. These physical hydrogels of chitosan are currently used in our laboratory for tissue engineering in the treatment of third degree burns with the possibility to adapt their mechanical properties from the choice of both the acid or the alcohol used.
This article was published in Biomacromolecules
and referenced in Biochemistry & Physiology: Open Access