Multi-responsive polypeptide hydrogels derived from N-carboxyanhydride terpolymerizations for delivery of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
A polypeptide-based hydrogel system, when prepared from a diblock polymer with a ternary copolypeptide as one block, exhibited thermo-, mechano- and enzyme-responsive properties, which enabled the encapsulation of naproxen (Npx) during the sol–gel transition and its release in the gel state. Statistical terpolymerizations of l -alanine (Ala), glycine (Gly) and l -isoleucine (Ile) NCAs at a 1 : 1 : 1 feed ratio initiated by monomethoxy monoamino-terminated poly(ethylene glycol) afforded a series of methoxy poly(ethylene glycol)- block -poly( l -alanine- co -glycine- co - l -isoleucine) (mPEG- b -P(A-G-I)) block polymers. β-Sheets were the dominant secondary structures within the polypeptide segments, which facilitated a heat-induced sol-to-gel transition, resulting from the supramolecular assembly of β-sheets into nanofibrils. Deconstruction of the three-dimensional networks by mechanical force (sonication) triggered the reverse gel-to-sol transition. Certain enzymes could accelerate the breakdown of the hydrogel, as determined by in vitro gel weight loss profiles. The hydrogels were able to encapsulate and release Npx over 6 days, demonstrating the potential application of these polypeptide hydrogels as an injectable local delivery system for small molecule drugs.