What's amazing to me about these hydrogels is their damage tolerance. The ability to stretch a polymeric material many times its original length is not all that noteworthy, but the ability to stretch a polymeric material with a notch in it many times its original length is totally incredible.
Understanding the mechanisms behind the toughness and damage tolerance of these hydrogels could lead to the development of tough polymers for all kinds of applications.
With regard to cartilage replacement, biocompatibility may be a hurdle. One of the biggest difficulties with cartilage replacement therapies to date has been the body rejecting the new cartilage (even when it has been grown in the lab from the patient's own cells).
The self-healing and elasticity of this gel is pretty amazing. I would have liked to have this as a commercialized option for my dog who in the last two years went through two separate surgeries to repair the doggie equivalent of a torn ACL.
At this year's MD&M West show, lots of material suppliers are talking about new formulations for wearables and things that stick to the skin, whether it's adhesives, wound dressings, skin patches and other drug delivery devices, or medical electronics.
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