New York, July 3 (IANS) Researchers have developed a protein-based gel that, when exposed to light, can instantly heal wounds.
It heals wounds by acting as a sealant – sticks to the tissue at the site of injury and create a barrier over a wound.
Besides, it can be incorporated with cells in a dish and then injected to stimulate tissue growth.
“We are engineering strong, elastic materials from proteins, so many tissues within the human body are elastic,” said Nasim Annabi, a co-senior author of the study, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston.
“If we want to use biomaterials to regenerate those tissues, we need elasticity and flexibility. Our hydrogel is very flexible, made from a biocompatible polypeptide and can be activated using light.”
Hydrogels – the jelly-like materials that can mimic the properties of human tissue – are widely used in biomedicine, but currently available materials have limitations.
“Some synthetic gels degrade into toxic chemicals over time, and some natural gels are not strong enough to withstand the flow of arterial blood through them,” said lead researcher Ali Khadem hosseini.
The material, known as a photocrosslinkable elastin-like polypeptide-based (ELP) hydrogel, offers several benefits.
It was possible to combine the gel with silica nanoparticles – microscopic particles previously found to stop bleeding – to develop an even more powerful barrier to promote wound healing.
“This could allow us to immediately stop bleeding with one treatment,” said Annabi.
“We see great potential for use in the clinic. The material is biocompatible, and we hope to see it solve clinical problems in the future.”
This elastic hydrogel is formed by using a light-activated polypeptide. When exposed to light, strong bonds form between the molecules of the gel, providing mechanical stability without the need for any chemical modifiers to be added to the material.
The ELP hydrogel can be digested overtime by naturally-occurring enzymes and does not have toxic effects when tested with living cells in the lab.
They found that they could control how much the material swelled as well as its strength, finding that the ELP hydrogel could withstand more stretching than experienced by arterial tissue in the body.
The results were described in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.