Due to the exorbitant costs of purchasing gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) from commercial retailers, many research laboratories decide to synthesize their own GelMA as a way to reduce costs. To do this, researchers use the same lengthy, inefficient GelMA synthesis process used by commercial organizations. Below are 5 challenges faced by researchers who decide to synthesize their own GelMA.
1. The synthesis process varies between laboratories
Although the current GelMA synthesis process has existed since 2000, every laboratory environment is different. The type of equipment used, the environmental conditions of a particular room, and inconsistencies in human actions are all factors that can lead to varying degrees of successful GelMA production. Therefore, the environment of one lab may allow for successful GelMA synthesis, but another lab may struggle to produce a quality product.
When optimizing the GelMA synthesis process, multiple iterations of the synthesis process must be completed to gather enough data. If each round of synthesis takes two weeks to complete, many months can be easily consumed just in validating a GelMA synthesis method that works for a laboratory’s particular conditions.
2. Inefficiencies of dialysis
In an effort to purify the GelMA produced using the traditional synthesis method, dialysis is used to filter out the impurities left behind from the initial reaction. It is recommended that the water be changed twice daily for 5-7 days, and as such, a member of the research team must spend their valuable time monitoring the dialysis process. This responsibility is tedious and removes the researcher from more important duties, like facilitating publication.
Even if the substitution reaction needed for GelMA synthesis is recreated perfectly, inconsistencies can still be present. For example, the specific temperature of the water used in dialysis can affect its efficacy, in turn affecting the reproducibility of GelMA. If inconsistencies are discovered between multiple GelMA batches, none of it can be used until another batch of equivalent GelMA is produced as a form of quality control.
3. Inefficiencies of lyophilization
Lyophilization, or freeze-drying, is the second lengthy step of GelMA synthesis. This step removes the ice crystals formed in the GelMA after it is frozen in order to extend its shelf-life. The lyophilization process is a 4 step sequential process which relies on the successful completion of each step before proceeding to the next. If one step in the process goes awry, the entire process must begin again. The entire process takes up to 60 hours to complete, and the resulting GelMA must still undergo packaging in a vacuum-sealed container.
Lyophilization is a rough process, and biological molecules can be damaged by the stress of it, leading to inconsistencies between batches. To account for possible damage during lyophilization, synthesized GelMA must be verified once it is rehydrated and ready to use, further increasing the tedious nature of the process.
4. Cost of equipment
Synthesizing GelMA for laboratory use can actually be comparable in price to purchasing it commercially when all associated production costs are considered, including price of equipment and labour costs. Dialysis and lyophilization equipment is highly expensive, which can complicate the research process by affecting the allocation of funding and can further slow down progress. For example, the tubing to run the GelMA solution through the dialysis filter, and the filter itself, can be quite expensive. The amount of tubing used varies, however, even the minimal length can be expensive. If an accurate budget is not developed, the initial cost of purchasing a complete GelMA production system often costs more than purchasing GelMA at current retail prices.
5. Duration of process
As explained above, the process of GelMA synthesis is laborious and time consuming. It involves a 7-day dialysis of the GelMA to remove toxic impurities from the substance. Furthermore, the current process is only scaled for the synthesis of small quantities of GelMA and is an inadequate method for large scale production. If larger scale experiments are to be conducted, the process of preparing GelMA must be undertaken multiple times, consuming valuable laboratory time. Overall, while the synthesis process progresses, all researchers associated with the project must wait for the material to be synthesized. Work cannot proceed, yet salaries must be paid; a highly inefficient laboratory process, especially when funding is limited.
Impure products, tedious verification processes, and hidden financial obligations are all reasons why self-synthesis of GelMA is a poor use of time and money. At the GelMA Company we are scientists too. We understand how tedious in-house synthesis can be, so that’s why we’ve invented and patented a new production method to make GelMA trustworthy and accessible for researchers worldwide. We’re on a mission to make GelMA more affordable, to save you time, money, and effort in the lab!