Evaluation of genipin-crosslinked chitosan hydrogels as a potential carrier for silver sulfadiazine nanocrystals

In the present study genipin crosslinked chitosan (CHI) hydrogels, which had been constructed and reported in our previous studies (Lei Gao, et al. Colloids Surf. B Biointerfaces. 2014, 117: 398), were further evaluated for their advantage as a carrier for silver sulfadiazine (AgSD) nanocrystal systems. Firstly, AgSD nanocrystals with a mean particle size of 289 nm were prepared by wet milling method and encapsulated into genipin crosslinked CHI hydrogels. AgSD nanocrystals displayed a uniform distribution and very good physical stability in the hydrogel network. Swelling-dependent release pattern was found for AgSD nanocrystals from hydrogels and the release profile could be well fitted with Peppas equation. When AgSD nanocrystals were encapsulated in hydrogels their fibroblast cytotoxicity decreased markedly, and their antibacterial effects against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa were still comparable to unencapsulated AgSD nanocrystals. In vivo evaluation in excision and burn cutaneous wound models in mice showed that AgSD nanocrystal hydrogels markedly decreased the expression of inflammatory cytokine IL-6, but increased the levels of growth factors VEGF-A and TGF-β1. Histopathologically, the wounds treated by hydrogels containing AgSD nanocrystals showed the best healing state compared with commercial AgSD cream, hydrogels containing AgSD bulk powders and blank hydrogels. The wounds treated by AgSD nanocrystal hydrogels were dominated by marked fibroblast proliferation, new blood vessels and thick regenerated epithelial layer. Sirius Red staining assay indicated that AgSD nanocrystal hydrogels resulted in more collagen deposition characterized by a large proportion of type I fibers. Our study suggested that genipin-crosslinked CHI hydrogel was a potential carrier for local antibacterial nanomedicines.