Utilizing cationic peptides for the development of novel antibacterial hydrogels for addressing bacterial infections in an environment of increasing bacterial resistance to existing antibiotics
Funding Agency: The World Academy of Sciences, Italy
Hydrogel is a 3D network of hydrophilic polymers that chemically or physically crosslink and swell in water to hold a large amount of water while also maintaining its structure. While these have the ability to swell and retain water, these are also not soluble in water. Peptide and amino acid based low molecular weight hydrogelators are such class of non-covalently cross-linking hydrogels that have proven to be biodegradable, non-immunogenic and they bear resemblance to the natural extracellular matrix (ECM), for in vivo cell support.
We have found that C-terminally modified cationic Fmoc-Phe amino acids readily undergo self-assembly in water to form fibril networks of hydrogels in the presence of NaCl salts without any pH adjustment for gelation with enhanced biocompatibility. The peptide-based cationic hydrogels have antibacterial properties due to disruptive interactions of the cationic fibrils with the anionic cell walls of the bacteria. Furthermore, such hydrogels allow cell proliferation. Our results have shown that cationic Fmoc-Phe hydrogels demonstrate antibacterial properties against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Such Low Molecular Weight hydrogelators can be a simple, cheaper and easy alternative to peptide based hydrogels with similar antibacterial properties, while also allowing mammalian cell viability.