Treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) largely involve lifelong drug prescriptions or surgical intervention that can lead to poor quality of life for patients. Regenerative therapies involving stem cells have been shown to induce tissue regeneration but are limited in their efficacy by inefficient delivery mechanisms. Scaffold based delivery of cells has been a key research focus of tissue engineers seeking to translate advances in stem cell research into clinical solutions. Biomaterial scaffolds that are delivered noninvasively to form in situ solid structures around the cells are preferable over surgically delivered monolithic scaffolds. We synthesized a novel biomaterial for in situ-forming, thermoresponsive intestinal scaffolds by thiolation of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-co-glycidyl methacrylate) by conjugation of cysteine. Thiolation of the polymer enables chemical crosslinking with the intestinal mucus, enhancing mucoadhesion and permitting control of scaffold retention time in the intestinal environment. This paper reports the synthesis and characterization of the thiolated polymer, and investigates its crosslinking behavior, mucoadhesive properties and cytocompatibility for potential tissue engineering applications in the intestine.

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