Experimental and theoretical investigations of the swelling and mechanical properties of hydrogels formed from chitosan, bovine serum albumin (BSA), and chitosan/BSA mixtures cross-linked with genipin were performed. The properties of cross-linked chitosan hydrogels were explained in terms of its polyelectrolyte behavior, which led to a gradual increase in swelling ratio below the pK value, but whereby its swelling ability was eliminated by the presence of salt that screened the charges. Comparison of theoretical and experimental calculations of the swelling ratio, however, indicated that complications arising from wastage of cross-links, and formation of polymerized genipin cross-links must be considered before quantitative prediction can be achieved. Cross-linked BSA hydrogels swelled even in the presence of salt, and a marked increase in swelling was observed below pH = 3 that was explained as the result of an acid induced denaturation of the protein that led to unfolding of the molecule. Swollen BSA hydrogels were mechanically weak, however. Composite gels made from a cross-linked mixture of chitosan and BSA exhibited the swelling behavior of BSA combined with the mechanical properties of chitosan and were therefore considered most suitable for use in a gastric environment.
- Serum Albumin, Bovine