Lovell JF, Roxin A, Ng KK, Qi Q, McMullen JD, DaCosta RS & Zheng G
Biomacromolecules, 2011

We demonstrate that porphyrins can be used as efficient cross-linkers to generate a new class of hydrogels with enabling optical properties. Tetracarboxylic acid porphyrins reacted with PEG diamines to form a condensation polyamide in a range of appropriate conditions, with respect to reaction time, diisopropylethylamine initiator concentration, porphyrin-to-PEG ratio, porphyrin concentration, and PEG size. The network structure of the hydrogel maintained a porphyrin spacing that prevented excessive fluorescence self-quenching despite high porphyrin density. The near-infrared properties readily enabled low background, noninvasive fluorescence monitoring of the implanted hydrogel in vivo, as well as its image-guided surgical removal in real time using a low-cost fluorescence camera prototype. Emission could be tuned by incorporating copper metalloporphyrins into the network. The approach of creating hydrogels using cross-linking porphyrin comonomers creates opportunities for new polymer designs with strong optical character.

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