In situ forming hydrogels with catechol groups as tissue reactive functionalities are interesting bioinspired materials for tissue adhesion. Poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)–catechol tissue glues have been intensively investigated for this purpose. Different cross-linking mechanisms (oxidative or metal complexation) and cross-linking conditions (pH, oxidant concentration, etc.) have been studied in order to optimize the curing kinetics and final cross-linking degree of the system. However, reported systems still show limited mechanical stability, as expected from a PEG network, and this fact limits their potential application to load bearing tissues. Here, we describe mechanically reinforced PEG–catechol adhesives showing excellent and tunable cohesive properties and adhesive performance to tissue in the presence of blood. We used collagen/PEG mixtures, eventually filled with hydroxyapatite nanoparticles. The composite hydrogels show far better mechanical performance than the individual components. It is noteworthy that the adhesion strength measured on skin covered with blood was >40 kPa, largely surpassing (>6 fold) the performance of cyanoacrylate, fibrin, and PEG–catechol systems. Moreover, the mechanical and interfacial properties could be easily tuned by slight changes in the composition of the glue to adapt them to the particular properties of the tissue. The reported adhesive compositions can tune and improve cohesive and adhesive properties of PEG–catechol-based tissue glues for load-bearing surgery applications.
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