I have predicted that hydrogels are going to be a significant topic in medical device development in 2017, and recent news out of Duke University supports this.
Duke researchers have been able to develop a “double-network” hydrogel that combines two different hydrogel materials and can be formed to shape using a 3D printer. Significantly, the material combines the strength properties of one hydrogel component with the elastic properties of the other to create a material that is close to human cartilage. The material can be tuned to provide specific characteristics by adjusting the percentage of each component in the mix. This could allow hydrogels to be developed that mimic the properties of other tissue types – skin, blood vessels, etc.
There is undoubtedly much work to be done still, but this could be a transformational breakthrough.