Hydrogel is the new buzz word in the medicine world! A revolutionary substance that helps bone to grow! Hydrogel has a two step process. Firstly, the body’s temperature helps thermo-gelation to occur. When filling spaces in the body with hydrogel, the gel is heated thus moulding to the bone. The second part of the process solves an ongoing problem whereby the gel contracts and expels water when stiffening occurs; Rice university developed a polymerising stage. By mixing a catalyst before moulding and inserting it in the body, it will slowly stabilise the shape before water can escape. Exciting, I know!
What is truly interesting is the fact that the gel decays as the bone grows and at a similar rate. This is because bone gives off the enzyme alkaline phosphatase which breaks down phosphate ester bonds: the stuff that is in the gel!
The hope is that this gel will revolutionise facial and skull surgery. They are hoping to put stem cells in the hydrogel in order to stimulate bone growth wherever the gel is put. Once the space if filled with bone, the gel would run out of the growth factor and growth would halt! Amazing!
This paves a way for cosmetic surgeons whose aim it is to permanently build up bone structure in a damaged facial structure due to accidents. Also, it can be used to shave down bone structure and build a completely new shape!
Hydrogel has the potential for incredible uses. It is cheap and easy to work with. It is designed and engineered for the human body thus infection and other complications are at a minimum. We shall have to wait and see how this new medical technology will grow!
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[Image via: news.rice]