The preparation of composite biopolymer hydrogels offers the capability to produce biocompatible and biodegradable materials with cooperative properties. In this paper, two natural polymers, namely, chitosan and agarose were employed to prepare composite hydrogels with dual pH and temperature properties. The elastic modulus of the composite hydrogels increased with agarose concentration reaching the value of 1 kPa for the chitosan/agarose gel with a 2% (w/v) concentration of agarose. In addition, composite gels exhibited a higher stability in acidic aqueous solutions, in comparison with agarose gels. The drug release properties of the composite hydrogels were tested by loading a model anticancer drug, 5-Fluorouracil, in the hydrogel interior. At pH = 7.4, the cumulative release of 5-FU was ∼50% within 96 hand decreased to ∼33% at pH = 5.2, which was attributed to the different solubility of 5-FU as a function of pH. The preparation of composite microgels with controllable dimensions in the range from 42 to 18mum and with narrow size distribution (polydispersity not exceeding 1.5%) was achieved by the microfluidic emulsification of an aqueous mixture of chitosan and agarose and subsequent gelation of the precursor droplets by cooling.
chitosan; agarose; composite hydrogels; microfluidics; mechanical properties; drug release