Protein diffusion in photopolymerized poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogel networks

Biomed Mater. 2011 Oct;6(5):055006. doi: 10.1088/1748-6041/6/5/055006. Epub 2011 Aug 26.


In this study, protein diffusion through swollen hydrogel networks prepared from end-linked poly(ethylene glycol)-diacrylate (PEG-DA) was investigated. Hydrogels were prepared via photopolymerization from PEG-DA macromonomer solutions of two molecular weights, 4600 Da and 8000 Da, with three initial solid contents: 20, 33 and 50 wt/wt% PEG. Diffusion coefficients for myoglobin traveling across the hydrogel membrane were determined for all PEG network compositions. The diffusion coefficient depended on PEG molecular weight and initial solid content, with the slowest diffusion occurring through lower molecular weight, high-solid-content networks (D(gel) = 0.16 ± 0.02 × 10(-8) cm(2) s(-1)) and the fastest diffusion occurring through higher molecular weight, low-solid-content networks (D(gel) = 11.05 ± 0.43 × 10(-8) cm(2) s(-1)). Myoglobin diffusion coefficients increased linearly with the increase of water content within the hydrogels. The permeability of three larger model proteins (horseradish peroxidase, bovine serum albumin and immunoglobulin G) through PEG(8000) hydrogel membranes was also examined, with the observation that globular molecules as large as 10.7 nm in hydrodynamic diameter can diffuse through the PEG network. Protein diffusion coefficients within the PEG hydrogels ranged from one to two orders of magnitude lower than the diffusion coefficients in free water. Network defects were determined to be a significant contributing factor to the observed protein diffusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Artificial Organs
  • Biocompatible Materials* / chemistry
  • Bioengineering
  • Cattle
  • Cornea
  • Diffusion
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Horseradish Peroxidase / administration & dosage
  • Hydrogels / chemistry
  • Immunoglobulin G / administration & dosage
  • Materials Testing
  • Molecular Weight
  • Myoglobin / administration & dosage
  • Particle Size
  • Permeability
  • Photochemical Processes
  • Polyethylene Glycols* / chemistry
  • Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine / administration & dosage


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Hydrogels
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Myoglobin
  • Proteins
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Horseradish Peroxidase