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Thermoresponsive polymers with the appropriate structure form physical networks upon changes in temperature, and they find utility in formulation science, tissue engineering, and drug delivery. Here, we report a cost-effective biocompatible alternative, namely OEGMA30015-b-BuMA26-b-DEGMA13, which forms gels at low concentrations (as low as 2% w/w); OEGMA300, BuMA, and DEGMA stand for oligo(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate (MM = 300 g mol-1), n-butyl methacrylate, and di(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate, respectively. This polymer is investigated in depth and is compared to its commercially available counterpart, Poloxamer P407 (Pluronic F127). To elucidate the differences in their macroscale gelling behavior, we investigate their nanoscale self-assembly by means of small-angle neutron scattering and simultaneously recording their rheological properties. Two different gelation mechanisms are revealed. The triblock copolymer inherently forms elongated micelles, whose length increases by temperature to form worm-like micelles, thus promoting gelation. In contrast, Pluronic F127's micellization is temperature-driven, and its gelation is attributed to the close packing of the micelles. The gel structure is analyzed through cryogenic scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Ex vivo gelation study upon intracameral injections demonstrates excellent potential for its application to improve drug residence in the eye.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1783 - 1799