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Reinforced gels deliver drugs and cells

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Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on protein gels that can not only deliver cells to replace damaged tissue and drugs to treat disease, but that will also self-heal and retain their shape inside the body for longer. Rather imposingly named "shear thinning hydrogels," these gels flow like a fluid when they are exposed to stress and pressure (such as when being forced through a needle), and then solidify once they are inside the body. To stop them becoming fluid again and falling apart with the movements and stresses of the body, the researchers added a network that is soluble at room temperature but that becomes insoluble at body temperature and forms a grid, reinforcing the gel. The next step is to "tune" the gel so that it degrades over a specific length of time. The research was published in Advanced Functional Materials and was funded by the U.S. Army Research Office through MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN). Abstract | Article

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