Everyday science moves closer to giving you superpowers. Though it might not be anything like Marvel’s Wolverine or Deadpool, researchers at the University of New Hampshire have created a new injectable hydrogel that could help patients heal their injuries significantly faster than traditional methods.
Hydrogels are already a staple in regenerative medicine. The gels “biocompatibility”, flexible methods, and range of uses make is the perfect tools for a lot of doctors. Hydrogels can do a host of things that include providing structural integrity for damaged tissue as well as serving as an adhesive between tissue and material surfaces.
The UNH group created a macroporous hydrogel gel or material is a material containing pores with diameters less than 2 nm, by fusing readily available gelatin microgels and inexpensive enzyme. Gelatin itself has a natural protein that contains collagen, the connective tissue found in your body, especially on your skin.
When applied to the injured area, these hydrogels trigger a reaction on the wound causing the neighboring cells to “run” over and begin repairing the wound. The new gels could allow for the additional release of other protein-based drugs to further accelerate the healing process.
Our bodies natural healing can be tricky at time, especially when you consider other external factors or existing medical conditions. Existing hydrogel used to heal irregularly shaped wounds are inefficient because they do not allow for the neighboring cells in your body to assist with the bodies' healing process.
As described by Kyung Jae Jeong, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), “While valuable for helping patients, current hydrogels have limited clinical efficacy. We discovered a simple solution to make the hydrogels more porous and therefore help to speed up the healing.”
This new healing method could open the floodgates to a wide range of treatments for those dealing with immediate and chronic injuries. The UNH research team have already mentioned that their treatment could be used for military complications as well as post-surgery procedures.
Even more so, the new hydrogels could be used to treat diabetic ulcers, internal and external wounds, body burns, the cornea, and internal organs. The science itself is another major leap in regenerative medicine.
The study was recently published in the journal of ACS Applied Bio Materials. The work was supported in part by the NIH COBRE Center of Integrated Biomedical and Bioengineering Research through an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.