A Biocompatible and Biodegradable Protein Hydrogel with Green and Red Autofluorescence: Preparation, Characterization and in Vivo Biodegradation Tracking and Modeling

Xiaoyu Ma, Xiangcheng Sun, Derek Hargrove, Jun Chen, Donghui Song, Qiuchen Dong, Xiuling Lu, Tai Hsi Fan, Youjun Fu, Yu Lei*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Citations (Scopus)


Because of its good biocompatibility and biodegradability, albumins such as bovine serum albumin (BSA) and human serum albumin (HSA) have found a wide range of biomedical applications. Herein, we report that glutaraldehyde cross-linked BSA (or HSA) forms a novel fluorescent biological hydrogel, exhibiting new green and red autofluorescence in vitro and in vivo without the use of any additional fluorescent labels. UV-vis spectra studies, in conjunction with the fluorescence spectra studies including emission, excitation and synchronous scans, indicated that three classes of fluorescent compounds are presumably formed during the gelation process. SEM, FTIR and mechanical tests were further employed to investigate the morphology, the specific chemical structures and the mechanical strength of the as-prepared autofluorescent hydrogel, respectively. Its biocompatibility and biodegradability were also demonstrated through extensive in vitro and in vivo studies. More interestingly, the strong red autofluorescence of the as-prepared hydrogel allows for conveniently and non-invasively tracking and modeling its in vivo degradation based on the time-dependent fluorescent images of mice. A mathematical model was proposed and was in good agreement with the experimental results. The developed facile strategy to prepare novel biocompatible and biodegradable autofluorescent protein hydrogels could significantly expand the scope of protein hydrogels in biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19370
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

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