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Title: Inherent Photodegradability of Polymethacrylate Hydrogels: Straightforward Access to Biocompatible Soft Microstructures

Hydrogels are important functional materials useful for 3D cell culture, tissue engineering, 3D printing, drug delivery, sensors, or soft robotics. The ability to shape hydrogels into defined 3D structures, patterns, or particles is crucial for biomedical applications. Here, the rapid photodegradability of commonly used polymethacrylate hydrogels is demonstrated without the need to incorporate additional photolabile functionalities. Hydrogel degradation depths are quantified with respect to the irradiation time, light intensity, and chemical composition. It can be shown that these parameters can be utilized to control the photodegradation behavior of polymethacrylate hydrogels. The photodegradation kinetics, the change in mechanical properties of polymethacrylate hydrogels upon UV irradiation, as well as the photodegradation products are investigated. This approach is then exploited for microstructuring and patterning of hydrogels including hydrogel gradients as well as for the formation of hydrogel particles and hydrogel arrays of well‐defined shapes. Cell repellent but biocompatible hydrogel microwells are fabricated using this method and used to form arrays of cell spheroids. As this method is based on readily available and commonly used methacrylates and can be conducted using cheap UV light sources, it has vast potential to be applied by laboratories with various backgrounds and for diverse applications.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Advanced Functional Materials
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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