Hydrogels are hydrophilic, three-dimensional networks that are able to absorb large quantities of water or biological fluids, and thus have the potential to be used as prime candidates for biosensors, drug delivery vectors, and carriers or matrices for cells in tissue engineering. In this critical review article, advantages of the hydrogels that overcome the limitations from other types of biomaterials will be discussed. Hydrogels, depending on their chemical composition, are responsive to various stimuli including heating, pH, light, and chemicals. Two swelling mechanisms will be discussed to give a detailed understanding of how the structure parameters affect swelling properties, followed by the gelation mechanism and mesh size calculation. Hydrogels prepared from natural materials such as polysaccharides and polypeptides, along with different types of synthetic hydrogels from the recent reported literature, will be discussed in detail. Finally, attention will be given to biomedical applications of different kinds of hydrogels including cell culture, self-healing, and drug delivery.
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