Macroporous click-elastin-like hydrogels for tissue engineering applications

Alicia Fernandez-Colino*, Rederic Wolf, Hans Keijdener, Stephan Ruetten, Thomas Schmitz-Rode, Stefan Jockenhoevel, J. Carlos Rodriguez-Cabello, Petra Mela*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Elastin is a key extracellular matrix (ECM) protein that imparts functional elasticity to tissues and therefore an attractive candidate for bioengineering materials. Genetically engineered elastin-like recombinamers (ELRs) maintain inherent properties of the natural elastin (e.g. elastic behavior, bioactivity, low thrombogenicity, inverse temperature transition) while featuring precisely controlled composition, the possibility for biofunctionalization and non-animal origin. Recently the chemical modification of ELRs to enable their crosslinking via a catalyst-free click chemistry reaction, has further widened their applicability for tissue engineering. Despite these outstanding properties, the generation of macroporous click-ELR scaffolds with controlled, interconnected porosity has remained elusive so far. This significantly limits the potential of these materials as the porosity has a crucial role on cell infiltration, proliferation and ECM formation. In this study we propose a strategy to overcome this issue by adapting the salt leaching/gas foaming technique to click-ELRs. As result, macroporous hydrogels with tuned pore size and mechanical properties in the range of many native tissues were reproducibly obtained as demonstrated by rheological measurements and quantitative analysis of fluorescence, scanning electron and two-photon microscopy images. Additionally, the appropriate size and interconnectivity of the pores enabled smooth muscle cells to migrate into the click-ELR scaffolds and deposit extracellular matrix. The macroporous structure together with the elastic performance and bioactive character of ELRs, the specificity and non-toxic character of the catalyst-free click-chemistry reaction, make these scaffolds promising candidates for applications in tissue regeneration. This work expands the potential use of ELRs and click chemistry systems in general in different biomedical fields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-147
Number of pages8
JournalMaterials Science & Engineering C-Materials for Biological Applications
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Elastin
  • Elastin-like recombinamers
  • Macroporous scaffolds
  • Click-chemistry
  • Salt-leaching/gas foaming
  • Cell ingrowth

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