Hydrogels seem to be all over the medical news these days. A recent advance that holds promise for a number of medical applications is detailed in a paper at Nature.com.
Conventional hydrogels can be injected as a liquid solution. They form a gel as their polymer components crosslink. However they also absorb water, which causes them to swell and produce adverse reactions in some applications.
The paper in Nature describes a method of producing a hydrogel material that can be injected into delicate tissue – the eye for instance – as a liquid solution but with no swelling occurring upon gelation, which happens within about 10 minutes.
The material is being tested in rabbit models has an artificial vitreous body for the treatment of retinal detachment. The hydrogel vitreous has held up for over a year without adverse effects.
The authors believe that the material will find uses in a range of applications, not only in ophthalmology but also where biocompatible filler material is needed in surgeries, wound care and cosmetic procedures.