Nanocellulose from wood is a promising material with potential in various technological areas. Within biomedical applications nanocellulose has been proposed as a suitable nano-material for wound dressings. This is based on the capability of the material to self-assemble into 3D micro-porous structures, which among others have an excellent capacity of maintaining a moist environment. In addition, the surface chemistry of nanocellulose is suitable for various applications. Firstly, OH-groups are abundant in nanocellulose materials, making the material strongly hydrophilic. Secondly, the surface chemistry can be modified, introducing aldehyde and carboxyl groups, which have major potential for surface functionalization. In this study we demonstrate the production of nanocellulose with tailor-made surface chemistry, by pre-treating the raw cellulose fibres with carboxymethylation and periodate oxidation. The pre-treatments yielded a highly nanofibrillated material, with significant amounts of aldehyde and carboxyl groups. Importantly, the poly-anionic surface of the oxidized nanocellulose opens up for novel applications, i.e. micro-porous materials with pH-responsive characteristics. This is due to the swelling capacity of the 3D micro-porous structures, which have ionisable functional groups. In this study, we demonstrated that nanocellulose gels have a significantly higher swelling degree in neutral and alkaline conditions, compared to an acid environment (pH 3). Such a capability can potentially be applied in chronic wounds for controlled and intelligent release of antibacterial components into biofilms.