Hydrophobic hyaluronic acid-based nanofibers could find a use in biomedicine
Preparation of a water-insoluble nanofibrous antimicrobial material based on hyaluronic acid and the subsequent investigation of its properties for the potential use in the field of biomedicine. These were the main objectives of the researchers from the Centre of Nanotechnology at VSB - Technical University of Ostrava (VSB-TUO) in cooperation with colleagues from Contipro. The results of more than a year of their work were published in the journal Carbohydrate Polymers.
The researchers used a hyaluronic acid derivative produced by Contipro, a company which is engaged in the research and production of this substance. While, for cosmetic purposes the high-water solubility of hyaluronic acid is favourable, for biomedical applications - such as the gradual release of drugs - this property is undesirable. Therefore, Contipro is working on modifying the polymer chain of hyaluronic acid by using different functional groups to prevent the polymer from dissolving in water. Nanofibrous mats then keep their integrity after submerging in water and water-based solutions.
“We used one of the derivatives and prepared nanofibers from it using electrospinning. We added antiseptic agents to them and investigated the different properties of the material. A study of the literature also showed that we were one of the first to develop an insoluble nanofibrous material based on hyaluronic acid without the use of toxic solvents, which is ready for further use without the usual cross-linking which is necessary in other methods. This, among other things, shortens the preparation process and does not require the use of often toxic reagents,” explained Lenka Bardoňová, the lead author of the paper and PhD candidate in Nanotechnology at VSB-TUO, who is preparing her dissertation in partnership with a private company. In association with Contipro, she focused on the preparation of nanofiber mats by electrospinning in her diploma thesis, for which she was awarded third place in the Werner Siemens Prize competition last year.
The results of the research carried out could find future use in various applications. Since electrospinning uses high voltage to produce nanofibers, the researchers first investigated whether this process has any effect on the substances used. It turned out that there is no significant degradation. “We also found out that the prepared nanofibers swell in humid environments, lose their nanofibrous structure, and the mats become film-like with irregularly scattered pores. We also assessed the antimicrobial efficacy and the effect of the materials on cell viability,” Bardoňová added.
However, according to the authors, the published article is not the end of the research. Currently, they are focusing on the release of active substances from nanofibrous material in order to understand the precise mechanisms behind these processes.