Owing to their water-rich structures, which are similar to those of biological tissues, hydrogels have long been regarded as promising scaffolds for artificial tissues and organs. However, in terms of the structural anisotropy, most synthetic hydrogels are substantially different from biological systems. Synthetic hydrogels are usually composed of randomly oriented three-dimensional polymer networks whereas biological systems adopt anisotropic structures with hierarchically integrated building units. Such anisotropic structures often play essential roles in biological systems to exhibit particular functions. In this context, anisotropic hydrogels provide an entry point for exploring biomimetic applications of hydrogels. Reflecting these aspects, an increasing number of studies on anisotropic hydrogels have been reported recently. This Minireview highlights the use and perspectives of these anisotropic hydrogels, particularly focusing on their preparation, structures, and applications.
Keywords: actuators; anisotropy; hydrogels; materials science; tissue regeneration.
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