Special hydrogel may one day heal voids in injured bones
While bone injuries such as fractures typically heal on their own, large sections of missing bone often never grow back, requiring bone transplants from other parts of the body. A new hydrogel, however, could help change that.
Developed by scientists at Tel Aviv University and the University of Michigan, the substance is scientifically known as – are you ready? – an immunomodulatory fibrous hyaluronic acid-Fmoc-diphenylalanine-based (FmocFF/HA) hydrogel. What makes it special is the fact that it mimics both the physical and chemical properties of the extracellular matrix in bone tissue.
The extracellular matrix is the supportive material that surrounds all cells, and its qualities vary depending on the type of biological tissue which it's part of. In the case of bone tissue, the matrix has a rigid, fibrillary (fibrous) structure.
By replicating that structure – along with the extracellular matrix's chemical composition – the three-dimensional FmocFF/HA hydrogel encourages cells from adjacent bone tissue to migrate into it and reproduce. The idea is that if a piece of the hydrogel gets surgically placed in a bone deficit, eventually the gel will be completely replaced by new natural bone tissue.
Such has reportedly been the case in lab experiments, in which the hydrogel was used to fill a 5-mm-diameter hole in the top of a rat's skull – the void was too large to heal unaided. An additional hole in the skull was left untreated, to serve as a control. A total of 20 rats were used.
"We monitored them for two months with various methods," said Tel Aviv's Prof. Lihi Adler-Abramovich. "To our delight, the bone defects were fully corrected through regeneration, with the bones regaining their original thickness, and generating new blood vessels."
Such was not the case with the controls, indicating that the FmocFF/HA hydrogel was indeed responsible for the outcome.
The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.