CHAPTER 6: Biomedical Applications of Molecular Gels
Published:05 Nov 2013
This chapter describes various emerging and potential biomedical applications of molecular gels, focusing on three main areas: drug delivery, tissue engineering and three-dimensional (3D) cell culture. Before discussing these in details, the generic benefits of using molecular gels for medical applications are discussed with focus on their ability to mimic the extracellular matrix (ECM). The first main area to be covered is then the use of molecular gels in drug delivery which again can be divided into three main categories; passive release of drugs from molecular gels, enzyme-trigged release and therapeutic molecular gels where the gelator molecule itself is the active drug. In all these cases the emphasis is on examples that have been tested or demonstrated in cell cultures (in vitro) or live animals (in vivo). The second main area concerns the use of molecular gels in tissue engineering highlighting successful examples of the how molecular gels can promote and direct the activity of stem cells to repair damaged tissues. The final main area discussed in this chapter is the development of 3D cell culture based on molecular gels. This emerging field illustrates well the advantages that molecular gels have in terms of chemical purity, synthetic ease and diversity, combined with their ECM mimicking ability, in comparison with polymeric or biologically sourced competing 3D cell culture models. The chapter concludes with some examples of emerging trends in the area and a discussion on what the future outlook is for the use of molecular gels in biomedicine.