Hydrogels composed of N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAAm) and acrylic acid (AAc) were prepared by redox polymerization with degradable chitosan cross-linkers. Chitosan degradable cross-linkers were synthesized by the acrylation of the amine groups of glucosamine units within chitosan and characterized with 1H NMR. With the chitosan cross-linkers, loosely cross-linked poly(N-isopropylacryamideco-acrylic acid) [P(NIPAAm-co-AAc)] hydrogels were prepared, and their phase transition behavior, lower critical solution temperature (LCST), water content and degradation properties were investigated. The chitosan cross-linked P(NIPAAm-co-AAc) hydrogels were pliable and transparent at room temperature. The LCST could be adjusted at 32∼39°C by alternating the feed ratio. Swelling was influenced by NIPAAm/AAc monomer ratio, cross-linking density, swelling media, and temperature. All hydrogels with different feeding ratios contained more than 95% water at 25°C in the ultra pure water and phosphate-buffered saline (PBS, pH = 7.4 ± 0.1), and had a prospective swelling in the simulated gastric fluids (SGF, pH = 1.2) > 72.54%. In degradation studies, breakdown of the chitosan cross-linked P(NIPAAm-co-AAc) hydrogels was dependent on the cross-linking density. The chitosan cross-linked P(NIPAAm-co-AAc) hydrogels which can be tailored to create environmentally-responsive artificial extracellular materials have great potential for future use. <alternatives> [...] </alternatives>
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