Bone and Joint Institute

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© 2019 American Chemical Society. Polyelectrolyte complexation, the combination of anionically and cationically charged polymers through ionic interactions, can be used to form hydrogel networks. These networks can be used to encapsulate and release cargo, but the release of cargo is typically rapid, occurring over a period of hours to a few days and they often exhibit weak, fluid-like mechanical properties. Here we report the preparation and study of polyelectrolyte complexes (PECs) from sodium hyaluronate (HA) and poly[tris(hydroxypropyl)(4-vinylbenzyl)phosphonium chloride], poly[triphenyl(4-vinylbenzyl)phosphonium chloride], poly[tri(n-butyl)(4-vinylbenzyl)phosphonium chloride], or poly[triethyl(4-vinylbenzyl)phosphonium chloride]. The networks were compacted by ultracentrifugation, then their composition, swelling, rheological, and self-healing properties were studied. Their properties depended on the structure of the phosphonium polymer and the salt concentration, but in general, they exhibited predominantly gel-like behavior with relaxation times greater than 40 s and self-healing over 2-18 h. Anionic molecules, including fluorescein, diclofenac, and adenosine-5′-triphosphate, were encapsulated into the PECs with high loading capacities of up to 16 wt %. Fluorescein and diclofenac were slowly released over 60 days, which was attributed to a combination of hydrophobic and ionic interactions with the dense PEC network. The cytotoxicities of the polymers and their corresponding networks with HA to C2C12 mouse myoblast cells was investigated and found to depend on the structure of the polymer and the properties of the network. Overall, this work demonstrates the utility of polyphosphonium-HA networks for the loading and slow release of ionic drugs and that their physical and biological properties can be readily tuned according to the structure of the phosphonium polymer.


This document is the Accepted Manuscript version of a Published Work that appeared in final form in Biomacromolecules, copyright © American Chemical Society after peer review and technical editing by the publisher. To access the final edited and published work see

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