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Poly (Ethylene Glycol)‐Based Hydrogels as Self‐Inflating Tissue Expanders with Tunable Mechanical and Swelling Properties


Tissue expansion is used by plastic/reconstructive surgeons to grow additional skin/tissue for replacing or repairing lost or damaged soft tissues. Recently, hydrogels have been widely used for tissue expansion applications. Herein, a self-inflating tissue expander blend composition from three different molecular weights (2, 6, and 10 kDa) of poly (ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogel with tunable mechanical and swelling properties is presented. The in vitro results demonstrate that, of the eight studied compositions, P6 (PEGDA 6 kDa:10 kDa (50:50)) and P8 (PEGDA 6 kDa:10 kDa (35:65)) formulations provide a balance of mechanical property and swelling capability suitable for tissue expansion. Furthermore, these expanders can be compressed up to 60% of their original height and can be loaded and unloaded cyclically at least ten times with no permanent deformation. The in vivo results indicate that these two engineered blend compositions are capable to generate a swelling pressure sufficient to dilate the surrounding tissue while retaining their original shape. The histological analyses reveal the formation of fibrous capsule at the interface between the implant and the subcutaneous tissue with no signs of inflammation. Ultimately, controlling the PEGDA chain length shows potential for the development of self-inflating tissue expanders with tunable mechanical and swelling properties.

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