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Australian researchers think they’ve found a way to attach hydrogels to medical implants

2020-10-09



A research team at the University of Sydney said that it developed a plasma technology to attach hydrogels to polymeric materials.

In a paper published in Advanced Functional Materials, the team of biomedical engineers said the plasma technology attaches the jelly-like hydrogel substances that are structurally similar to human soft tissue to the polymeric materials, allowing manufactured devices to better interact with surrounding tissue so that implants can function optimally in the body.

Led by Behnam Akhavan and Marcela Bilek of the school of biomedical engineering at Sydney, the team successfully combined hydrogels including those made from silk with Teflon and polystyrene polymers, according to a news release.

“Despite being similar to the natural tissue of the body; in medical science hydrogels are notoriously difficult to work with as they are inherently weak and structurally unstable,” Akhavan said in the release. “They do not easily attach to solids which means they often cannot be used in mechanically demanding applications such as in cartilage and bone tissue engineering.”

The research was carried out by the University of Sydney, alongside Tufts University in Medford, Mass, and it found that the plasma process can activate all surfaces of porous structures, including scaffolds, to covalently attach biomolecules and hydrogels, according to Bilek.

“These advances enable the creation of mechanically robust complex-shaped polymeric scaffolds infused with hydrogel, bringing us a step closer to mimicking the characteristics of natural tissues within the body,” Bilek said. “The plasma process is carried out in a single step, generates zero waste, and does not require additional chemicals that can be harmful to the environment.”

Akhavan, Bilek and the rest of the team said they will continue to further develop the technology to combine hydrogels with non-polymeric solid materials like ceramics and metals, too.