A novel versatile biocompatible hydrogel of whey protein isolate (WPI) and two types of tannic acid (TAs) was prepared by crosslinking of WPI with TAs in a one-step method at high temperature for 30 min. WPI is one common protein-based preparation which is used for hydrogel formation. The obtained WPI-TA hydrogels were in disc form and retained their integrity after sterilization by autoclaving. Two TA preparations of differing molecular weight and chemical structure were compared, namely a polygalloyl glucose-rich extract-ALSOK 02-and a polygalloyl quinic acid-rich extract-ALSOK 04. Hydrogel formation was observed for WPI solutions containing both preparations. The swelling characteristics of hydrogels were investigated at room temperature at different pH values, namely 5, 7, and 9. The swelling ability of hydrogels was independent of the chemical structure of the added TAs. A trend of decrease of mass increase (MI) in hydrogels was observed with an increase in the TA/WPI ratio compared to the control WPI hydrogel without TA. This dependence (a MI decrease-TA/WPI ratio) was observed for hydrogels with different types of TA both in neutral and acidic conditions (pH 5.7). Under alkaline conditions (pH 9), negative values of swelling were observed for all hydrogels with a high content of TAs and were accompanied by a significant release of TAs from the hydrogel network. Our studies have shown that the release of TA from hydrogels containing ALSOK04 is higher than from hydrogels containing ALSOK 02. Moreover, the addition of TAs, which display a strong anti-cancer effect, increases the cytotoxicity of WPI-TAs hydrogels against the Hep-2 human laryngeal squamous carcinoma (Hep-2 cells) cell line. Thus, WPI-TA hydrogels with prolonged drug release properties and cytotoxicity effect can be used as anti-cancer scaffolds.
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