The aim of the project is to study what lies behind the ultra low non specific protein adsorption ever measured on synthetic biomaterial, i.e. the relation structure-non fouling properties for polyzwiterionic materials. Polyzwitterions (PZI) and polyethyleneglycols (PEG) are known as polymers with very low bioadhesion and high biocompatibility. They are usually studied in a competitive way – which one shows better biocompatibility. The current project takes an unusual approach – to combine them in one material (double polymer networks (DM)). This new unique material is expected to possess transparency, hydrophilicity, biocompatibility, non fouling properties, good mechanical performance (thanks to DM approach) and higher swelling under physiological conditions than in pure water. All these properties make the new materials very appropriate as hydrogel layer for wound healing as they will absorb wound exudate keeping at the same time the necessary level of moisture to promote wound healing. This application is very new for PZI based materials and here the project could go beyond state of the art. Because of its non fouling properties, the new PZI-PEG DM will ensure painless wound dressings changing keeping at the same time higher concentration of the naturally produced in the wound growth factors and cells that help the wound to heal. The structure-properties relationship enlightening for these materials will open new avenues in biomaterials design and synthesis and will allow for controlling the biological response to them as needed for variety of applications.

Beside the low bioadhesion, PZI are known to be very gentle when interacting with proteins, non destroying their native structure and thus non reducing their natural therapeutic properties. This fact is especially important having in mind that proteins are still not so popular as drugs only because they are very unstable even under physiological conditions which significantly reduces their drug efficacy and performance. In the current project we will seek an answer to the question why exactly PZI are these polymers that not only do not destroy the protein native structure but even enhance the protein performance. To this purpose, new PZI (polysulfobetaine)-protein conjugates will be synthesized which will be used for model systems for detailed study on their structure-performance relationship. PEGylation is the “golden” standard in this respect although PEG only stabilizes the proteins without enhancing their performance. Two types of model proteins will be used – collagen hydrolyzates and enzymes that clear out the wound from necrotic tissue. These enzymes are known to be very effective in cleaning the wounds and that is why they are used as the main active ingredient in gels, developed by one of the partners of the project.

DM of PZI and PEG will be loaded with PZI-protein conjugates taking advantage of the specific dipole-dipole interaction between PZI macromolecules in the protein conjugates and these from the DM matrix. This interaction will ensure gentle anchoring of the proteins and later on protein release under physiological conditions. The question why exactly PZI possess so specific and attractive properties when it comes to polymer -protein interaction still needs to be answered and this is the second scientific challenge that the project aims to meet.

The project is interdisciplinary and gathers together scientists with different but complementary backgrounds to meet the project challenges. Part of the partners are already collaborators in similar topics and their common interest on the project will ensure sustainability of the project results after the project end.