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Hydrogel Helps the Development of Medical Biology

Hydrogel is a kind of extremely hydrophilic three-dimensional network structure gel, which swells rapidly in water and can maintain a large volume of water without dissolving in this swelling state. Due to the cross-linking network, the hydrogel can swell and retain a large amount of water, and the amount of water absorption is closely related to the degree of cross-linking. The higher the degree of crosslinking, the lower the water absorption.
Published in Advanced Functional Materials, a University of Sydney team of biomedical engineers has developed a plasma technology to robustly attach hydrogels—a jelly-like substance which is structurally similar to soft tissue in the human body—to polymeric materials, allowing manufactured devices to better interact with surrounding tissue.To function optimally in the body, a manufactured implant—whether it be an artificial hip, a fabricated spinal disc or engineered tissue—must bond and interact with appropriate surrounding tissues and living cells. When that doesn't happen an implant may fail or, worse still, be rejected by the body. Worldwide, implant failures and rejections are a significant cost to health systems, placing large financial and health burdens on patients.
The team, which was led by School of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Behnam Akhavan and Professor Marcela Bilek, successfully combined hydrogels including those made from silk with Teflon and polystyrene polymers
"Despite being similar to the natural tissue of the body; in medical science hydrogels are notoriously difficult to work with as they are inherently weak and structurally unstable. They do not easily attach to solids which means they often cannot be used in mechanically demanding applications such as in cartilage and bone tissue engineering," said Dr. Akhavan.
Hydrogels are highly attractive for tissue engineering because of their functional and structural similarity to human body soft tissue," said Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. student Ms Rashi Walia, who carried out the research in collaboration with the University of Sydney's School of Physics and School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, as well as Tufts University in Massachusetts, U.S."Our group's unique plasma process, recently reported in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, enables us to activate all surfaces of complex, porous structures, such as scaffolds, to covalently attach biomolecules and hydrogels", said ARC Laureate and Biomedical Engineering academic, Professor Marcela Bilek.

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