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Better tissue healing with disappearing hydrogels
Date:6/6/2014

When stem cells are used to regenerate bone tissue, many wind up migrating away from the repair site, which disrupts the healing process. But a technique employed by a University of Rochester research team keeps the stem cells in place, resulting in faster and better tissue regeneration. The key, as explained in a paper published in Acta Biomaterialia, is encasing the stem cells in polymers that attract water and disappear when their work is done.

The technique is similar to what has already been used to repair other types of tissue, including cartilage, but had never been tried on bone.

"Our success opens the door for manyand more complicatedtypes of bone repair," said Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Danielle Benoit. "For example, we should now be able to pinpoint repairs within the periosteumor outer membrane of bone material."

The polymers used by Benoit and her teams are called hydrogels because they hold water, which is necessary to keep the stem cells alive. The hydrogels, which mimic the natural tissues of the body, are specially designed to have an additional feature that's vital to the repair process; they degrade and disappear before the body interprets them as foreign bodies and begins a defense response that could compromise the healing process.

Because stem cells have the unique ability to develop into many different types of cells, they are an important part of the mechanism for repairing body tissue. At present, unadulterated therapeutic stem cells are injected into the bone tissue that needs to be repaired. Benoit believed hydrogels would allow the stem cells to finish the job of initiating repairs, then leave before overstaying their welcome.

The research team tested the hypothesis by transplanting cells onto the surface of mouse bone grafts and studying the cell behavior both in vivoinside the animaland in vitrooutside the body. They started by removing all living cells
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Contact: Peter Iglinski
peter.iglinski@rochester.edu
585-273-4726
University of Rochester
Source:Eurekalert  

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