A reversible hydrogel membrane for controlling the delivery of macromolecules

M Tang, R Zhang, A Bowyer, R Eisenthal, John Hubble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (SciVal)


Glucose-sensitive hydrogel membranes have been synthesized and characterized for their rate-of-delivery of macromolecules. The mechanism for changing this rate is based on variable displacement of the affinity interaction between dextran and concanavalin A (con A). Our main objective was to characterize the diffusion of model proteins (insulin, lysozyme, and BSA) through the membrane, in response to changes in environmental glucose concentrations. Membranes were constructed from crosslinked dextrans to which con A was coupled via a spacer arm. Changes in the porosity of the resulting hydrogel in the presence of glucose led to changes in the diffusion rate observed for a range of proteins. Gels of specified thickness were cast around to nylon gauze support (pore size, 0.1 mm) to improve mechanical strength. Diffusion of proteins through the gel membrane was determined using a twin-chamber diffusion cell with the concentrations being continuously monitored using a UV-spectrophotometer. Changes in the transport properties of the membranes in response to glucose were explored and it was found that, while 0.1M D-glucose caused a substantial, but saturateable, increase in the rates of diffusion of both insulin and lysozyme, controls using glycerol or L-glucose (0.1M) had no significant effect. Sequential addition and removal of external glucose in a stepwise manner showed that permeability changes were reversible. As expected, diffusion rates were inversely proportional to membrane thickness. A maximum increase in permeability was observed at pH 7.4 and at 37degreesC. The results demonstrate that this hydrogel membrane functions as a smart material allowing control of solute delivery in response to specific changes in its external environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-53
Number of pages7
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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