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Keywords:

  • hydrogels;
  • smart biomaterials;
  • self-assembly;
  • biodegradation;
  • crosslinking;
  • polymers;
  • proteins;
  • hybrid biomaterials;
  • graft copolymers;
  • block copolymers;
  • biocompatibility of hydrogels

Abstract

Hydrogels were the first biomaterials rationally designed for human use. Beginning with the pioneering work of Wichterle and Lím on three-dimensional polymers that swell in water, we review the design, synthesis, properties, and applications of hydrogels. The field of hydrogels has moved forward at a dramatic pace. The development of suitable synthetic methods encompassing traditional chemistry to molecular biology has been used in the design of hydrogels mimicking basic processes of living systems. Stimuli-sensitive hydrogels, hydrogels with controlled degradability, genetically engineered poly(amino acid) polymers reversibly self-assembling in precisely defined three-dimensional structures, and hybrid polymers composed of two distinct classes of molecules are just some examples of these exciting novel biomaterials. The biocompatibility of hydrogels and their applications from implants to nanomaterials are also reviewed. Copyright © 2007 Society of Chemical Industry