Objectives: This work sought to formulate photocrosslinkable chlorhexidine (CHX)-laden methacrylated gelatin (CHX/GelMA) hydrogels with broad spectrum of action against endodontic pathogens as a clinically viable cell-friendly disinfection therapy prior to regenerative endodontics procedures.
Methods: CHX/GelMA hydrogel formulations were successfully synthesized using CHX concentrations between 0.12 % and 5 % w/v. Hydrogel microstructure was evaluated by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Swelling and enzymatic degradation were assessed to determine microenvironmental effects. Compression test was performed to investigate the influence of CHX incorporation on the hydrogels' biomechanics. The antimicrobial and anti-biofilm potential of the formulated hydrogels were assessed using agar diffusion assays and a microcosms biofilm model, respectively. The cytocompatibility was evaluated by exposing stem cells from human exfoliated deciduous teeth (SHEDs) to hydrogel extracts (i.e., leachable byproducts obtained from overtime hydrogel incubation in phosphate buffer saline). The data were analyzed using One- and Two-way ANOVA and Tukey's test (α = 0.05).
Results: CHX/GelMA hydrogels were effectively prepared. NMR spectroscopy confirmed the incorporation of CHX into GelMA. The addition of CHX did not change the micromorphology (pore size) nor the swelling profile (p > 0.05). CHX incorporation reduced the degradation rate of the hydrogels (p < 0.001); whereas, it contributed to increased compressive modulus (p < 0.05). Regarding the antimicrobial properties, the incorporation of CHX showed a statistically significant decrease in the number of bacteria colonies at 0.12 % and 0.5 % concentration (p < 0.001) and completely inhibited the growth of biofilm at concentration levels 1 %, 2 %, and 5 %. Meanwhile, the addition of CHX, regardless of the concentration, did not lead to cell toxicity, as cell viability values were above 70 %.
Significance: The addition of CHX into GelMA showed significant antimicrobial action against the pathogens tested, even at low concentrations, with the potential to be used as a cell-friendly injectable drug delivery system for root canal disinfection prior to regenerative endodontics.
Keywords: Chlorhexidine; Drug Delivery; GelMA; Hydrogels; Regenerative endodontics; Scaffolds.
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