Does This Self-Healing Hydrogel Have Medical Applications?

In short

According to a press release, University of California, San Diego bioengineers have developed a self-healing hydrogel that binds in seconds, as easily as Velcro, and forms a bond strong enough to withstand repeated stretching. The group claims its material has numerous potential applications, including medical sutures, targeted drug delivery, industrial sealants and self-healing plastics, according to its report on March 5 in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Background

Hydrogels are commonplace in medical products, including in sealants where their combination of rapid setting, flexibility and timely absorption make them a compelling option. What this group has done is modify the hydrogel chain structure with the result that they claim it renders the material almost “self-healing”, which we’re guessing means it will stick to itself.

Time will tell whether this is a technology looking for an application, but it sounds like a genuine advance over conventional hydrogels which typically behave like, well, gels and don’t self-heal. The group is certainly sounding bullish about its usefulness. Indeed Ameya Phadke, a fourth year PhD student in lab said the hydrogel’s strength and flexibility in an acidic environment – similar to that of the stomach – makes it ideal as an adhesive to heal stomach perforations or for controlled drug delivery to ulcers. Phadke will present related research on April 12, 2012 at Research Expo, the annual research and networking event of the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

The full press release can be found here.

Source: University of California, San Diego, School of Engineering