Dopant-Free Hydrogels with Intrinsic Photoluminescence and Biodegradable Properties

Yung Hao Tsou, Xue Qing Zhang, Xin Bai, He Zhu, Zhongyu Li, Yanlan Liu, Jinjun Shi, Xiaoyang Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Photoluminescent hydrogels that function as both injectable scaffolds and fluorescent imaging probes hold great potential for therapeutics delivery and tissue engineering. Current fluorescent hydrogels are fabricated by either conjugating or doping a fluorescent dye, fluorescent protein, lanthanide chelate, or quantum dot into polymeric hydrogel matrix. Their biomedical applications are severely limited due to drawbacks such as photostability, carcinogenesis, and toxicity associated with the above-mentioned dopants. Here, a successful development of dopant-free photoluminescent hydrogels in situ formed by crosslinking of biocompatible polymer precursors is reported, which can be synthesized by incorporating an amino acid to a citric acid based polyester oligomer followed by functionalization of multivalent crosslinking group through a convenient transesterification reaction using Candida Antarctica Lipase B as a catalyst. It is demonstrated that the newly developed hydrogels possess tunable degradation, intrinsic photoluminescence, mechanical properties, and exhibit sustained release of various molecular weight dextrans. In vivo study shows that the hydrogels formed in situ following subcutaneous injection exhibit excellent biocompatibility and emit strong fluorescence under visible light excitation without the need of using any traditional organic dyes. Their in vivo degradation profiles are then depicted by noninvasively monitoring fluorescence intensity of the injected hydrogel implants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1802607
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number34
StatePublished - Aug 22 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • General Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • General Materials Science
  • Electrochemistry
  • Biomaterials


  • biodegradable hydrogels
  • injectable hydrogels
  • photoluminescent hydrogels


Dive into the research topics of 'Dopant-Free Hydrogels with Intrinsic Photoluminescence and Biodegradable Properties'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this