Thiol-ene photo-click hydrogels were prepared via step-growth polymerisation using thiol-functionalised type-I collagen and 8-arm poly(ethylene glycol) norbornene-terminated (PEG-NB), as a potential injectable regenerative device. Type-I collagen was thiol-functionalised by a ring opening reaction with 2-iminothiolane (2IT), whereby up to 80 Abs.% functionalisation and 90 RPN% triple helical preservation were recorded via 2,4,6-Trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid (TNBS) colorimetric assay and circular dichroism (CD). Type, i.e., either 2-Hydroxy-1-[4-(2-hydroxyethoxy) phenyl]-2-methyl-1-propanone (I2959) or lithium phenyl-2,4,6-trimethylbenzoylphosphinate (LAP), and concentration of photoinitiator were varied to ensure minimal photoinitiator-induced cytotoxicity and to enable thiol-ene network formation of collagen-PEG mixtures. The viability of G292 cells following 24 h culture in photoinitiator-supplemented media was largely affected by the photoinitiator concentration, with I2959-supplemented media observed to induce higher toxic response (0.1 → 0.5% (w
) I2959, cell survival: 62 → 2 Abs.%) compared to LAP-supplemented media (cell survival: 86 → 8 Abs.%). In line with the in vitro study, selected photoinitiator concentrations were used to prepare thiol-ene photo-click hydrogels. Gelation kinetics proved to be largely affected by the specific photoinitiator, with LAP-containing thiol-ene mixtures leading to significantly reduced complete gelation time (τ
: 187 s) with respect to I2959-containing mixtures (τ
: 1683 s). Other than the specific photoinitiator, the photoinitiator concentration was key to adjusting the hydrogel storage modulus (G
’), whereby 15-fold G
’ increase (232 → 3360 Pa) was observed in samples prepared with 0.5% (w
) compared to 0.1% (w
) LAP. Further thiol-ene formulations with 0.5% (w
) LAP and varied content of PEG-NB were tested to prepare photo-click hydrogels with porous architecture, as well as tunable storage modulus (G
’: 540–4810 Pa), gelation time (τ
: 73–300 s) and swelling ratio (SR
: 1530–2840 wt %). The photoinitiator-gelation-cytotoxicity relationships established in this study will be instrumental to the design of orthogonal collagen-based niches for regenerative medicine.
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