Our bodies are composed of 60 percent water. Hydrogels, one of the most promising innovations today, can hold up to 90 percent water content without dissolving. The distinct characteristics of these synthetic materials have led to their use in a variety of applications including personal care, in the form of disposable nappies; agricultural, in the form of plant-water crystals; and medical fields, in the form of treatments for a variety of conditions.
However, it is in the medical field that these materials are now seen to hold a lot of promise. As you will find out below, some of the most promising applications in the medical field for hydrogels include use as implants in minimally invasive surgical procedures, tissue repair and alternative drug delivery systems. Read on below to find out more about what hydrogels are, as well as their main applications in the medical world.
What Are Hydrogels?
Hydrogels can be simply defined as synthetic materials that are capable of holding hundreds of times their weight in water without dissolving. These materials then release the water back into their surroundings slowly.
These polymetric materials have distinct properties that have led scientists to closely associate them with human tissue. They are flexible, mostly made up of water and as squishy as rubber. A lot of research has been conducted in a bid to establish the usefulness of these substances in a variety of medical applications, among them the treatment of cancer and heart disease.
Implants In Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures
Research findings indicate that hydrogels can be used as implants in minimally invasive surgical procedures meant to provide structural support to weakened tissue as well as facilitate tissue repair.
Treating Damaged Heart Tissue
One of the most promising areas when it comes to the use of hydrogels from https://rdmedicalproducts.com/ in the medical industry is in the treatment of heart damage. According to research findings in a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, these materials can be used to protect the heart from damage, or repair damaged cardiovascular tissue.
During a heart attack, the restricted blood flow, resulting from narrowed blood vessels or blood clots, causes a lot of damage. Furthermore, the heart enlarges while its walls become thinner and scar tissue forms. This leads to a higher risk of heart failure in future. To treat this, scientists are experimenting with hydrogel injections that are meant to not only enhance healing of the damaged tissue, through the use of proteins, but also providing some much needed structural support to weakened areas of the heart muscle.
With hundreds of thousands of Americans suffering from heart attacks each passing year, and millions more living with heart failure, the positive findings from this study offer the promise of a better future. This is especially so as it eliminates the need for invasive surgery, as hydrogen implants can be injected into place.
Furthermore, the success of this treatment method comes as a relief to patients who would otherwise be forced to wait for a heart transplant, which tend to be limited in supply, at some point in their lives.
Treating Broken Bones And Wounds
Hydrogens are highly biocompatible, provide flexible methods of synthesis and can be designed to carry a variety of constituents. These properties have led to their application in tissue repair. Damaged tissue including bones and open wounds can now be treated using hydrogens designed to supply proteins or stem cells to targeted areas.
The hydrogens, which are designed to stick in place and release the proteins at a predetermined rate make tissue repair much more efficient. Furthermore, they also eliminate the need for invasive surgical procedures in some instances, similar to the application described above.
Scientists are also exploring the use of hydrogels in the delivery of drugs to make treatment cheaper, in addition to improving the quality of life of patients. Here’s two of the main treatment approaches being considered by scientists involved in testing hydrogel applications.
Over the years a lot of time and resources have been dedicated to the research of targeted delivery of cancer medication to affected areas of the body. Although not much progress has been made, hydrogels are now considered to be the most promising in this regard.
Part of the research directed towards the use of hydrogels in the treatment of cancer revolves around the administration of chemotherapy drugs. As it stands, cancer patients are required to go to a medical facility to receive chemotherapy treatment which is administered in the form of injections or drips.
Scientists are looking into ways to make it possible for these drugs to be administered orally using hydrogels. By eliminating the need for patients to travel to the hospital for treatment, scientists can be able to substantially reduce the cost of receiving said treatment. The main challenge for scientists revolves around making it possible for the body to absorb the drugs administered orally, given the fact that they, the drugs, are not water soluble.
Diabetics usually have to inject themselves with insulin on a regular basis to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. This is another area that research into the medical uses of hydrogels aims to change.
Scientists are looking into ways of using hydrogen implants under the skin can eliminate the need for regular insulin injections. Since the hydrogels are full of water, the insulin component will be slowly released into the body helping maintain healthy sugar levels. Once the insulin is depleted, the body will get rid of the residual hydrogel material through normal body processes.
Scientists are also considering the use of this synthetic material in the creation of oral insulin medication. Insulin cannot be taken orally because it is destroyed by stomach acids before it reaches the intestines, where it can be absorbed into the body naturally. Hydrogels can be used as a barrier, protecting the insulin component, against stomach acids until it reaches the small intestines. Its adhesive properties can then kick in, keeping it in the small intestine for longer to ensure effective absorption of the insulin.
Other Potential Uses
In addition to the above potential applications, research is also ongoing on the usefulness of this synthetic substance in the destruction of hospital superbugs. Scientists are testing whether the substance can be used to carry antimicrobial proteins through the protective layers found on hospital superbugs. As you can see from the above, there is a lot of ongoing research into the medical applications of hydrogels.