Academic News: HBU Professors Co-authored a Paper in Nature Communications


Hydrogels are highly hydrated polymer three-dimensional networks with excellent hydrophilicity and good chemical adaptability. The in-situ synthesis of hydrogels induced by external stimuli is of great significance. With the continuous advancement of related research, designing induction pathways with higher controllability is one of the key research directions in this field. The photocrosslinking reaction is an effective pathway for synthesizing hydrogels, mainly utilizing photosensitive groups in polymer chains or photoinitiators to induce crosslinking under light exposure, forming a three-dimensional network structure. This highly controllable gel-forming characteristic has shown significant advantages in areas such as rapid wound hemostasis, ion gel conductivity modulation, and photolithography. It is important to note that the photocrosslinking reaction is usually induced by light waves in the ultraviolet/visible light range, but the penetration of light waves in this range is poor in biological tissues. This limitation severely restricts the in-situ synthesis of hydrogels using photocrosslinking reactions in closed systems such as animal bodies and also limits their further application in areas such as deep tissue repair and tumor embolization therapy.


In response to the above issues, Professor Yang Yanmin and Associate Professor Zhang Hailei, building on their previous research (Nat. Commun., 2024, 15, 2055), further collaborated with Professor Han Gang from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Based on the surface modification of halloysite nanotubes (HNTs), they synthesized in-situ a nano composite material (HNTs@YF3:Tb3+) with X-ray-excited long persistent luminescence properties on the surface of nanotubes. This material exhibits good water dispersibility, low toxicity, and excellent compatibility with polymer matrices. The visible light converted by X-rays through HNTs@YF3:Tb3+ can be used to further activate the photoinitiator camphorquinone/cyclodextrin supramolecular complex, generate free radicals, induce radical polymerization of olefin monomers, and achieve the goal of in-situ synthesis of hydrogels. The authors of the paper have verified the feasibility of inducing deep tissue in-situ gel formation using the above X-ray-light-induced cascade reaction system in muscle tissue ex vivo models, rat animal models, and in vitro bone defect models. This cascade initiation system is also expected to be combined with other photochemical processes such as photocuring, photocatalysis, etc., and is poised to be further promoted and applied in areas such as deep dental defect repair, tumor embolization therapy, in-situ repair of deep tissue in the body, and repair of internal flaws in closed devices.


The related work "X-ray-activated polymerization expanding the frontiers of deep-tissue hydrogel formation" was published in the internationally renowned journal "Nature Communications" with Hebei University as the first unit (2024, 15, 3247). Professor Yang Yanmin from the School of Physics and Professor Han Gang from the University of Massachusetts Medical School are the corresponding authors, while Associate Professor Zhang Hailei from the School of Chemistry is the first author and corresponding author of the paper.


This research work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 22102045 & 11974097), the Central Guiding Local Science and Technology Development Fund (No. 226Z1301G), the Natural Science Foundation of Hebei Province (No. B2020201072), the President's Fund of Hebei University (No. XZJJ202210), and the Interdisciplinary Research Fund of Hebei University (DXK201301).


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