Structural and mechanical properties of folded protein hydrogels with embedded microbubbles

Christa P. Brown, Matt D. G. Hughes, Najet Mahmoudi, David J. Brockwell, P. Louise Coletta, Sally Peyman, Stephen D. Evans, Lorna Dougan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Globular folded proteins are powerful building blocks to create biomaterials with mechanical robustness and inherent biological functionality. Here we explore their potential as advanced drug delivery scaffolds, by embedding microbubbles (MBs) within a photo-activated, chemically cross-linked bovine serum albumin (BSA) protein network. Using a combination of circular dichroism (CD), rheology, small angle neutron scattering (SANS) and microscopy we determine the nanoscale and mesoscale structure and mechanics of this novel multi-composite system. Optical and confocal microscopy confirms the presence of MBs within the protein hydrogel, their reduced diffusion and their effective rupture using ultrasound, a requirement for burst drug release. CD confirms that the inclusion of MBs does not impact the proportion of folded proteins within the cross-linked protein network. Rheological characterisation demonstrates that the mechanics of the BSA hydrogels is reduced in the presence of MBs. Furthermore, SANS reveals that embedding MBs in the protein hydrogel network results in a smaller number of clusters that are larger in size (∼16.6% reduction in number of clusters, 17.4% increase in cluster size). Taken together, we show that MBs can be successfully embedded within a folded protein network and ruptured upon application of ultrasound. The fundamental insight into the impact of embedded MBs in protein scaffolds at the nanoscale and mesoscale is important in the development of future platforms for targeted and controlled drug delivery applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2726-2737
Number of pages12
JournalBiomaterials Science
Issue number8
Early online date8 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science


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