• cell encapsulation;
  • chitosan;
  • alginate;
  • mechanical properties


The use of chitosan in complexation with alginate appears to be a promising strategy for cell microencapsulation, due to the biocompatibility of both polymers and the high mechanical properties attributed by the use of chitosan. The present work focuses on the optimization and characterization of the alginate–chitosan system to achieve long-term cell encapsulation. Microcapsules were prepared from four types of chitosan using one- and two-stage encapsulation procedures. The effect of reaction time and pH on long-term cell viability and mechanical properties of the microcapsules was evaluated. Using the single-stage encapsulation procedure led to increase of at least fourfold in viability compared with the two-stage procedure. Among the four types of chitosan, the use of high molecular weight (MW) chitosan glutamate and low MW chitosan chloride provided high viability levels as well as good mechanical properties, i.e., more than 93% intact capsules. The high viability levels were found to be independent of the reaction conditions when using high MW chitosan. However, when using low MW chitosan, better viability levels (195%) were obtained when using a pH of 6 and a reaction time of 30 min. An alginate–chitosan cell encapsulation system was devised to achieve high cell viability levels as well as to improve mechanical properties, thus holding great potential for future clinical application. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 82:570–579, 2006

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