We produce macroporous gels, so called cryogels, by polymerization in a partially frozen state when the ice crystals perform as porogens. After completing the polymerization and melting ice crystals a system of interconnected pores is formed. Cryogels combine high biocompatibility of traditional gels with large pore size and mechanical strength allowing their practical chromatographic application. Cryogels proved to be very useful for capture of biomolecules from unprocessed feeds and were successfully used for the separation and analysis of bioparticles like inclusion bodies and microbial cells. Cryogels perform efficiently as scaffolds for the cultivation of mammalian cells. When arranged in 96-well microtiter plate format, cryogels are very promising for different screening procedures. The modification of pores in cryogels with grafted polymers endows the material with new properties and improves its performance e.g. protein-binding capacity. A new technology platform has been developed for the detachment of affinity bound bioparticles exploiting the elastic properties of cryogels.
In 2006, the main emphasis in the project was on studying mechanical properties of cryogels as well as the factors controlling the pore structure in cryogels and on developing new methods of modification of pore surface e.g. atom transferred radical graft polymerization (in collaboration with Prof, F. Du Prez, University of Gent, Belgium).
The application range of cryogels was extended by demonstrating that cryogels could be used for capture of proteins directly from blood using immobilized bacteriophages expressing a peptide with high binding affinity for a target protein.
Cryogels with different chemistries of pore surface modification, including newly developed mimic of cell-recognition motif RGD (Arg-Gly-Asp), were studied in 96-well format as scaffolds for the cultivation of adherent and non-adherent mammalian cells.
The work has been initiated on using cryogels in biomedical area as scaffolds in tissue engineering. Preliminary data indicate that cryogels are well tolerated when implanted in the body. This work is done in collaboration with Prof. E. Piskin in Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey).