Self-healing Hydrogel Spurs Hope for Cancer Treatment


by Buddy Nievera |

Chemical engineers in America’s leading university in tech — Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)  — have invented a new type of self-healing hydrogel that withstands external mechanical forces and reforms itself.

According to MIT News, the many uses of Hydrogels in medicine include use in gene sequencing systems, drug delivery systems, as surgical implants to aide with tissue growth, as well as tissue engineering as a suitable replacement for cartilage for example.

Electron microscope images of new hydrogels nanoparticles interacting with polymer chains. [Image Source:]It was reported that traditionally, these types of hydrogels have had to be surgically implanted for them to be effective.

MIT’s chemical engineers said that the hydrogel can be injected with a syringe and thus penetrate the body’s system. It is made up of a nanoparticle polymer interwoven with the strands of another polymer, such as cellulose, thus, making it simple and could withstand harsh mechanical forces, such as flowing through a syringe, and is still able to reform itself.

Now you have a gel that can change shape when you apply stress to it, and then, importantly, it can re-heal when you relax those forces. That allows you to squeeze it through a syringe or a needle and get it into the body without surgery,” says Mark Tibbitt, a postdoc at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and one of the lead authors of a paper describing the gel in Nature Communications on Feb. 19.

Researchers look at the specific advantage of the hydrogel wherein administering a drug in a gel form, the drug can be localized to treat a specific area. 

The properties of each component of the gel can also be tuned to create time-release drugs, which would allow for fewer injections.

Cancer treatment and tissue repair after a heart attack are a few other areas the researchers are exploring as uses for this new gel.

Removing the tumor leaves behind a cavity that you could fill with our material, which would provide some therapeutic benefit over the long term in recruiting and killing those cells, says Eric Appel, another postdoc and the paper’s lead author.

Source: MIT News