Conducting polymer hydrogels (CPHs) emerge as excellent functional materials, as they harness the advantages of conducting polymers with the mechanical properties and continuous 3D nanostructures of hydrogels. This bicomponent organization results in soft, all-organic, conducting micro-/nanostructures with multifarious material applications. However, the application of CPHs as functional materials for biomedical applications is currently limited due to the necessity to combine the features of biocompatibility, self-healing, and fine-tuning of the mechanical properties. To overcome this issue, we choose to combine a protected dipeptide as the supramolecular gelator, owing to its intrinsic biocompatibility and excellent gelation ability, with the conductive polymer polyaniline (PAni), which was polymerized in situ. Thus, a two-component, all-organic, conducting hydrogel was formed. Spectroscopic evidence reveals the formation of the emeraldine salt form of PAni by intrinsic doping. The composite hydrogel is mechanically rigid with a very high storage modulus (G′) value of â2 MPa, and the rigidity was tuned by changing the peptide concentration. The hydrogel exhibits ohmic conductivity, pressure sensitivity, and, importantly, self-healing features. By virtue of its self-healing property, the polymeric nonmetallic hydrogel can reinstate its intrinsic conductivity when two of its macroscopically separated blocks are rejoined. High cell viability of cardiomyocytes grown on the composite hydrogel demonstrates its noncytotoxicity. These combined attributes of the hydrogel allowed its utilization for dynamic range pressure sensing and as a conductive interface for electrogenic cardiac cells. The composite hydrogel supports cardiomyocyte organization into a spontaneously contracting system. The composite hydrogel thus has considerable potential for various applications.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was partially supported by grants from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (BISON, Advanced ERC grant, no. 694426) (E.G.). P.C. gratefully acknowledges the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology of Tel Aviv University for financial support. The authors thank Sigal Rencus-Lazar for linguistic editing and the members of the Gazit laboratory for helpful discussions.
© 2018 American Chemical Society.
- cardiac cells
- conducting hydrogel
- pressure sensing