• collagen hydrogel;
  • radiation crosslinking;
  • environmental stimuli response;
  • tissue scaffold


Collagen hydrogels were prepared via radiation crosslinking. The simulated physiological environmental effects related to their biomedical applications on the volume phase transition of collagen hydrogel were studied, that is stimuli response to ions, temperature, and pH. The deswelling behavior of collagen hydrogel depends on the salt concentration, temperature, pH, and the hydrogel preparation procedure. Meanwhile, hydrogel structure related to the volume phase transition was investigated by FTIR, fluorescence spectrum, and HR-MAS NMR. Deswelling in salt solution caused little change on collagen conformation, and a denser network led to more significant tyrosine-derived fluorescence quenching. Hydrogen bonding between hydrated water and collagen polypeptide chain was dissociated and the activity of hydrophobic side chain increased, inducing a higher extent of contraction with the increasing of salt concentration. Moreover, salt solution treatments weakened the electrostatic interactions, side chains interactions, and hydrogen bonding of collagen hydrogel, which reduced the thermal stability of collagen hydrogel. Comparing with cell-free collagen hydrogel contraction, fibroblasts did not aggravate contraction of collagen hydrogel significantly. This study elucidated the deswelling mechanism of radiation crosslinked collagen hydrogel in simulated physiological environment and provides strategies for controlling the stimuli response of collagen hydrogel in biomedical application. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A, 2013.