Recently the fabrication of gels from biological molecules has received increasing interest in the field of biomaterials (1). Indeed these gels, especially the hydrogels, can be biocompatible and biodegradable, can entrap large amounts of water or biological fluid, have a microporous structure and provide an excellent mechanical support through their three-dimensional structure. These properties make them idealbiomaterials for possible applications in the biomedical field (2).
Here we report our results, obtained exploiting the proteins’ natural tendency to self-organize in a 3D network, for the production of new protein-based materials. The main aim of our work has been to determine the best experimental conditions to obtain a hydrogel of protein aggregates of BSA, a human-compatible and well known protein. Our main task was to characterize the nature of aggregates, namely the fundamental “bricks” of the network, and verify if different aggregates produced different hydrogels.
We analyzed the conformational and structural changes of the protein during all the steps of thermalaggregation and different steps of gelation through FTIR measurement, as a function of pH. Besides, we performed AFM measurements to get important information about the morphology and the structural evolution of the aggregates during the gelation process. Finally microscopic and macroscopic properties of different kinds of hydrogels were characterized with SEM measurements. Using a straightforward protocol, we show that it is possible to obtain heat-induced protein hydrogels with different physical properties.