New Hydrogel for Healing Bond Defects
In many ways, our bodies have a tremendous capability to heal themselves, but occasionally they do need help. Of course the catch with giving our bodies help is making sure it does not fail or ultimately hurt the body. Researchers at Rice University have recently developed a hydrogel that solves the problem of others, when it comes to guiding our bodies to repair damage to bones.
One of the ways a doctor can help our bodies heal is to provide a scaffold for our cells to grow on. The hydrogels that can be used to make scaffolds for bone tissues though have the issue of hardening and then shrinking, as they expel water. Over time the scaffold can be much too small and be of no use to the healing process. The Rice researchers have solved this by creating a hydrogel that will form links to keep it stable over the long term. These links are formed with phosphate ester bonds, which is important as they can be broken down by alkaline phosphatase, and that is a chemical bone tissue produces as it grows. As the bone grows on the scaffold, it will produce alkaline phosphatase that will trigger the scaffold to degrade away, and give the bone more room to grow.
By carefully controlling the hydrogel, the researchers suspect it should be possible to tune it to degrade at different rates, to match the rate different bones grow at. That effort though may be left to biotech companies, as the researchers are more interested in the specific mechanics and performance of the material.
Source: Rice University