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A hydrogel that sticks to cartilage and meniscus

Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de LausanneEPFL researchers have developed a hydrogel – consisting of almost 90% water – which naturally…

Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

EPFL researchers have developed a hydrogel – consisting of almost 90% water – which naturally stickes soft tissue like cartilage and meniscus. If the hydrogel carries repair cells, it may help to prevent damaged tissues.

Some types of body tissue, such as cartilage and meniscus, have little or no blood supply and can not heal if they are injured. A promising approach to this problem is to inject a hydrogel loaded with repair cells or drugs in the injured area in the hope of stimulating tissue regeneration.

However, commercial hydrogels remain after application to the treatment area due to pressure from the body’s movements and the flow of body fluids. Doctors therefore use special membranes to hold the hydrogel in place, but these membranes are attached to sutures that perforate the tissue that the hydrogel is to heal.

Two EPFL research groups, led by Dominique Pioletti and Pierre-Etienne Bourban, have created a biocompatible hydrogel that naturally adheres to soft tissues such as cartilage and meniscus. Their hydrogel, which is almost 90% water, withstands mechanical strain and extensive deformation, thus eliminating the need for a separate bonding process. Their research has been published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces .

Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

“Our hydrogel is ten times more self-adhesive than currently available bio-adhesives on the market like fibrin,” said Pioletti, director of the Laboratory of Biomechanical Orthopedics at the EPFL University of Technology. “Due to the high water content, our hydrogel is very similar to the natural tissue for which it is intended to heal.”

Composite Liquid Energygel

The new hydrogel is actually a composite material consisting of a double mesh matrix and a fiber mesh. This structure retains the strong adhesive capacity of the material by crushing the impact of mechanical stresses. “The dual network structure distributes incoming mechanical energy through the hydrogel, so the material shows adhesion enhancements when compressed or stretched,” says Pioletti. “In hydrogels lacking these damping mechanisms, the mechanical stresses are concentrated on the interface between the hydrogel and the tissue, and the hydrogel is quite easy.”

Martin Broome, head of the Oral and Maxillo-Facial Surgery Department at the University Hospital of Lausanne (CHUV), co-author of the article, is convinced that this type of hydrogel can make a real difference. “If we build on the remarkable adhesion properties of the hydrogel, it can open the door to a large number of potential applications. One day, for example, it can be used instead of metallic materials such as titanium for bone fractures. No longer need to use complex sutures on some types of soft tissue. “

In its current form, the hydrogel developed at EPFL can adhere to several types of tissue. The next step for the researchers will be to tailor it for specific applications. “Now that our material has demonstrated its superior mechanical properties, we will work to load it with different agents that can help heal a patient’s cartilage or meniscus,” concludes Pioletti.

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More information:
Peyman Karami et al. Composer with double network for enhancement of adhesion on biological surfaces, ACS applied materials and interfaces (2018). DOI: 10,1021 / acsami.8b10735

Journal Reference:
ACS applied materials and interfaces

Provided by:
Ecole Polytechnique Federal Lausanne

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