In a recent news release, a team of material engineers at Harvard led by Zhigang Suo, PhD, professor, report that they have developed a stretchy, robust, biocompatible, and self-healing hydrogel that may become a potential cartilage repair treatment option for human joint defects, such as osteoarthritis (OA). The synthesized hydrogel is reported to be a strong hybrid polymer, engineered by using a blend of polyacrylamide and alginate. The mixture yields a complex network stronger than gels formed from polyarcylamide or alginate alone, researchers say.
The release notes that many primary therapeutic options for OA are invasive and typically do not replicate the structural characteristics of healthy cartilage and its associated biomechanical properties, thereby heightening interest in the emerging area of tissue engineering. Researchers add that hydrogels are widely used as scaffolds for cartilage tissue engineering research thanks to their biocompatibility and elasticity. However, low stretchability and poor mechanical stability can limit the product’s applications.
According to the team, contrast to conventional hyrdogels, this newly synthesized gel has the ability to maintain toughness and elasticity over multiple stretches, stretching 21 times its original length. Its chemical structure allows the whole structure of the gel to pull apart very slightly over a large area rather than allowing the gel to crack.
The developing research may pave the road to designing novel functioning cartilage tissue substitutes to challenge the current treatment paradigm for cartilage repair, the release notes.