Boron-loaded hydrogel halves the recovery time for injured muscles
Over the past few years we've seen some interesting examples of how injectable hydrogels can boost the recovery of damaged muscles and tendons, whether by flooding them with stem cells or acting as supporting scaffolds. Scientists in Spain have now developed a hydrogel that releases boron to dramatically accelerate the formation of new muscle fibers.
The new biomaterial was developed by researchers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the Center for Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine. It is described as a boron-loaded alginate hydrogel, and is designed to be delivered to the site of damaged muscle via subcutaneous injection, where the boron is released and kicks off a chain reaction of events that aid muscle regeneration.
As the boron makes its way into the muscles, it stimulates proteins called integrins, which promote adhesion between the cells and the extracellular matrix, the supportive structure that helps them build up into tissue. This has the effect of triggering a greater amount of adhesions of a larger size, which connects undifferentiated muscle cells to produce myotubes and in turn fresh muscle fibers.
This process was observed in mice that were subjected to acute muscle injuries, with the team's technique greatly accelerating their recovery and enabling the muscle to regenerate much more quickly.
"We verified that, by adding boron to damaged muscle cells, their level of adhesion increased, and now they adhered in a faster and more robust way, allowing the muscle to regenerate in a shorter period of time," says study author Dr. Patricia Rico.
The team believes this technology could have particular value in treating aging-related muscle atrophy, as well as inherited forms of muscular dystrophy. The research also lays the groundwork for improved treatments for common muscle tears, which the scientists say could be healed in half the time.
“If, for example, a second degree fibrillar tear takes 30 days to regenerate, the use of our hydrogel reduces the recovery time to 15 days," says Rico.
The research was published in the journal Materials Science and Engineering.