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New injectable gels toughen up after entering the body
Date:11/15/2012

or PEG), but Olsen's lab is focusing on protein hydrogels, which are appealing because they can be designed relatively easily to promote biological functions such as cellular adhesion and cell migration.

The protein hydrogels in this study consist of loosely packed proteins held together by links between protein segments known as coiled coils, which form when two or three helical proteins coil into a ropelike structure.

The MIT researchers designed their hydrogel to include a second reinforcing network, which takes shape when polymers attached to the ends of each protein bind together. At lower temperatures, these polymers are soluble in water, so they float freely in the gel. However, when heated to body temperature, they become insoluble and separate out of the watery solution. This allows them to join together and form a sturdy grid within the gel, making it much more durable.

The researchers found that gels with this reinforcing network were much slower to degrade when exposed to mechanical stress and were significantly stiffer.

Another advantage of these gels is that they can be tuned to degrade over time, which would be useful for long-term drug release. The researchers are now working on ways to control this feature, as well as incorporating different types of biological functions into the gels.


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Contact: Sarah McDonnell
s_mcd@mit.edu
617-253-8923
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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