Stimuli-Responsive Protein Hydrogels: Their Design, Properties, and Biomedical Applications
Protein-based hydrogels are considered ideal biomaterials due to their high biocompatibility, diverse structure, and their improved bioactivity and biodegradability. However, it remains challenging to mimic the native extracellular matrices that can dynamically respond to environmental stimuli. The combination of stimuli-responsive functionalities with engineered protein hydrogels has facilitated the development of new smart hydrogels with tunable biomechanics and biological properties that are triggered by cyto-compatible stimuli. This review summarizes the recent advancements of responsive hydrogels prepared from engineered proteins and integrated with physical, chemical or biological responsive moieties. We underscore the design principles and fabrication approaches of responsive protein hydrogels, and their biomedical applications in disease treatment, drug delivery, and tissue engineering are briefly discussed. Finally, the current challenges and future perspectives in this field are highlighted.