RSC Adv. 2022 Aug 5;12(34):21713-21724. doi: 10.1039/d2ra02295h. eCollection 2022 Aug 4.
The search for materials and process parameters capable of generating hydrogels for soft tissue engineering applications, based on an experimental design strategy that allows the evaluation of several factors involved in their development and performance, has greatly increased. Nevertheless, the fabrication technique can influence their mechanical properties, swelling, crystallinity, and even their susceptibility to contamination by microorganisms, compromising their performance within the tissue or organ. This study aimed to evaluate the influence of the freeze/thaw technique on different characteristics of polyvinyl alcohol-xanthan gum hydrogel. Methods: this research analyzed the critical variables of the freeze/thaw process through a systematic study of a 2 k factorial design of experiments, such as the proportion and concentration of polymers, freezing time and temperature, and freeze/thaw cycles. Additionally, physicochemical analysis, susceptibility to bacterial growth, and cell viability tests were included to approximate its cytotoxicity. The optimized hydrogel consisted of polyvinyl alcohol and xanthan gum at a 95 : 5 ratio, polymer mixture concentration of 15%, and 12 h of freezing with three cycles of freeze/thaw. The hydrogel was crystalline, flexible, and resistant, with tensile strengths ranging from 9 to 87 kPa. The hydrogel was appropriate for developing scaffolds for soft tissue engineering such as the cardiac and skeletal muscle, dermis, thyroid, bladder, and spleen. Also, the hydrogel did not expose an in vitro cytotoxic effect, rendering it a candidate for biomedical applications.