Uniform antibacterial cylindrical nanoparticles for enhancing the strength of nanocomposite hydrogels

Zehua Li, Amanda K. Pearce, Jianzhong Du, Andrew Dove, Rachel O'Reilly

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Crystallization-driven self-assembly (CDSA) was employed for the preparation of monodisperse cationic cylindrical nanoparticles with controllable sizes, which were subsequently explored for their effect on antibacterial activity and the mechanical properties of nanocomposite hydrogels. Poly(ɛ-caprolactone)-block-poly(methyl methacrylate)-block-poly[2-(tert-butylamino) ethyl methacrylate] (PCL-b-PMMA-b-PTA) triblock copolymers were synthesized using combined ring-opening and RAFT polymerizations, and then self-assembled into polycationic cylindrical micelles with controllable lengths by epitaxial growth. The polycationic cylinders exhibited intrinsic cell-type-dependent antibacterial capabilities against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria under physiological conditions, without quaternization or loading of any additional antibiotics. Furthermore, when the cylinders were combined into anionic alginate hydrogel networks, the mechanical response of the hydrogel composite was tunable and enhanced up to 51%, suggesting that cationic polymer fibers with controlled lengths are promising mimics of the fibrous structures in natural extracellular matrix to support scaffolds. Overall, this polymer fiber/hydrogel nanocomposite shows potential as an injectable antibacterial biomaterial, with possible application in implant materials as bacteriostatic agents or bactericides against various infections.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Polymer Science. Part A: Polymer Chemistry
Early online date21 Feb 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
China Scholarship Council; Education and Scientific Research Project of Shanghai, Grant/Award Number: 21520710100; National Outstanding Youth Science Fund Project of National Natural Science Foundation of China, Grant/Award Number: 21925505 Funding information

Funding Information:
The China Scholarship Council and the University of Warwick are acknowledged for a Joint Scholarship to Zehua Li. The 111 project, National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars, NSFC (21925505), and Shanghai international scientific collaboration fund (21520710100) are acknowledged for the collaboration research. The authors are grateful to Dr. Jessica Blair and Helen McNeil for access, expert advice, and training in microbiology experiments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Polymer Science published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • alginate hydrogels
  • antibacterial micelles
  • crystallization-driven self-assembly
  • nanocomposites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics


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