Dynamic and Degradable Imine-Based Networks for 3D-Printing of Soft Elastomeric Self-Healable Devices

Advanced Materials Interfaces 2023 Volume 10, Issue 17, Article 2300066

Self-healable degradable networks encounter a growing popularity for biomedical applications due to their ability to recover their properties after damage. Self-healable hydrogels dominate with applications in tissue engineering and drug delivery. On the opposite and despite their potential for medical devices, self-healable elastomers remain scarce, especially if they must be compatible with fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D-printing and self-heal at physiological temperature under a hydrated state. These unmet challenges are addressed in this work with degradable elastomeric networks based on dynamic imine bonds prepared from multi(aldehyde) and multi(amine) hydrophobic PEG-PLA star-shaped copolymers. The star topology of these copolymers is the key feature of the strategy as it allows the design of multifunctional high molecular weights pre-polymers that ensure an efficient dynamic chemical crosslinking while guaranteeing access to the FDM process generally restricted to thermoplastics. The proposed elastomeric networks combine high self-healing efficiencies at 37 °C (>97%) with mechanical properties compatible with soft tissues and a linear degradation profile. Their FDM processing to produce self-healable tubular devices is demonstrated. Finally, their cytocompatibility is assessed and confirm their potential as biodegradable elastomeric networks to be used for the design of self-healable 3D-printed devices for biomedical applications.