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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Biomaterials. Volume 30, Issue 33, November 2009, Pages 6541-6547. The published version is available at DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2009.08.025 . Copyright (c) Elsevier Inc.


The objective of this work is to develop subconjunctivally implantable, biodegradable hydrogels for sustained release of intact insulin to the retina to prevent and treat retinal neurovascular degeneration such as diabetic retinopathy. The hydrogels are synthesized by UV photopolymerization of N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAAm) monomer and a dextran macromer containing multiple hydrolytically degradable oligolactate-(2-hydroxyetheyl methacrylate) units (Dex-lactateHEMA) in 25:75 (v:v) ethanol:water mixture solvent. Insulin is loaded into the hydrogels during the synthesis process with loading efficiency up to 98%. The hydrogels can release biologically active insulin in vitro for at least one week and the release kinetics can be modulated by varying the ratio between NIPAAm and Dex-lactateHEMA and altering the physical size of the hydrogels. The hydrogels are not toxic to R28 retinal neuron cells in culture medium with 100% cell viability. The hydrogels can be implanted under the conjunctiva without causing adverse effects to the retina based on hematoxylin and eosin stain, immunostaining for microglial cell activation, and electroretinography. These subconjunctivally implantable hydrogels have potential for long-term periocular delivery of insulin or other drugs to treat diabetic retinopathy and other retinal diseases.

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