Sticky hydrogel has become a new medical phenomenon as researchers are hoping that harness their power and versatility to address a number of difficult issues facing humankind today. From repairing damaged hearts to regrowing brain tissue Swiss scientists say that advanced hydrogels hold the potential to be the next big thing in medicine.
As a matter of fact, there are two teams of researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) working on this project. Together, they have created a new material that can, in fact, help to heal damaged cartilage more effectively. You see, cartilage is not like other soft tissues. Skin, for example, can usually heal itself on its own if you get a minor scrap or even a bigger wound. Sure, you might occasionally need a stitch to help keep a wound closed, but skin cells still do all the mending.
On the other hand, cartilage cannot typically heal itself without some kind of medical intervention. Of course, the problem with existing hydrogels is that while they are used in cases like cartilage-related injuries (severe sprain, for example) they don’t stay put. To keep them in place, doctors must also use membranes, which have to be sewn into the tissue that the hydrogel is supposed to heal.
The new advanced sticky hydrogel, on the other hand, just sticks to that soft host tissue.
More importantly, perhaps, the new hydrogel (which is 90 percent water that houses a double-network matrix and a fiber network) actually sticks to tissues even better when it is compressed or stretched. Essentially, then, lead researcher Dominique Pioletti comments that this double-network structure disperses incoming mechanical energy across the whole of the hydrogel. Basically, you can load the hydrogel material with repair cells or with treatment drugs and deliver it directly to heal the broken cartilage all without the need to damage or interfere with them from sutures.
With this knowledge, then, the research team has adhered the new advanced hydrogel material to various types of natural tissues to examine its consistency. Sure enough, the material sticks to cartilage, meniscus, and other natural tissues quite well, and the team is excited at the possibilities this poses.