We report the synthesis and optical characterization of two new photoactivators and demonstrate their use for multiphoton excited three-dimensional free-form fabrication with proteins. These reagents were developed with the goal of cross-linking Type 1 collagen. This cross-linking process produces structures on the micron and submicron size scales. A rose bengal diisopropyl amine derivative combines the classic photoactivator and co-initiator system into one molecule, reducing the reaction kinetics and increasing cross-linking efficiency. This derivative was successful at producing stable structures from collagen, whereas rose bengal alone was not effective. A benzophenone dimer connected by a flexible diamine tether was also synthesized. This activator has two photochemically reactive groups and is highly efficient in cross-linking bovine serum albumin and Type 1 collagen to form stable, robust structures. This approach is more flexible in terms of cross-linking a variety of proteins than by traditional benzophenone photochemistry. The photophysical properties vary greatly from that of benzophenone, with the appearance of a new, lower energy absorption band (λmax ∼370 nm in water) and broad, visible emission band (∼500 nm maximum). This absorption band is highly solvatochromic, suggesting it arises, at least in part, from a charge transfer interaction. Collagens are typically difficult to cross-link photochemically, and the results here suggest that these two new activators will be suitable for cross-linking other forms of collagen and additional proteins for biomedical applications such as the de novo assembly of biomimetic tissue scaffolds.
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Vol. 76 • No. 2