In nature, laccase enzymatically catalyzes the reaction of phenolic compounds with oxygen to produce hardened surfaces known as cuticles on insects and plants. Inspired by this natural process, the present work investigated a robust, biodegradable hydrogel synthesized from dopamine and gelatin. This gel is obtained by the oxidation of dopamine dissolved in water, after which the resulting quinone compound automatically undergoes self-polymerization. The oxidized dopamine subsequently undergoes Schiff base and Michael addition reactions with gelatin, such that the exposed gelatin surface cross-links to generate a continuous hardened hydrogel film. Because gelatin transitions between sol and gel states with changes in temperature, two- and three-dimensional structures could be obtained from the gel state. This bio-inspired interfacial cross-linking reaction provides a simple means of forming complex morphologies and represents a promising technique for bio-applications.
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