Biomedical hydrogels are better at body temperature

Researchers from New Zealand, Canada and the USA have studied the effect of temperature on the development of hydrogels, determining that hydrogels created at body temperature or below are more robust and function more effectively in the body.

Described in Physics of Fluids, the researchers claim that the hydrogels created could be used in biomedical applications in tissue repair, as surgical sealants and in 3D biofabrication.

Different temperatures are used to create different products of biomaterials
Figure 1: Different temperatures are used to create different products of biomaterials. Different temperatures are used to create different products of biomaterials depending on their intended application. Credit: Heon E. Park

As hydrogels contain particles in their solid states that are dispersed as molecules as a liquid, the they can often move between ‘sols’ and ‘gels’ depending on the temperature of their surroundings. These changes can cause problems depending on the intended use.

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When we want to create a patch for a lung puncture, we want something that can biodegrade in the body but is, at the same time, very sticky, so it adheres to the lung and is tough, so it can work as the lung expands and shrinks,” explained author, Heon Park (University of Canterbury, New Zealand).

The team claims that these findings could be very useful in the 3D printing of biomaterials, as the proposed temperature methodology could lead to shapes being printed from syringes with the capability of holding their shape for longer.

Our research also shows the temperature of the bioink in the printing syringe should be at body temperature, so that it flows easily when it emerges, and that the printing bed should be room temperature or below, so that the printed part toughens,” Park added.

The team also described methodologies reducing the need for drying hydrogels, an issue that has occurred in many studies.

Big picture, we have shown that the best way to engineer biomaterials that are rigid and sticky is by changing the temperature rather than by reformulating the hydrogels,” Park concluded.

Sources: Park HE, Gasek N, Hwang J, Weiss DJ, Lee PC. Effect of temperature on gelation and cross-linking of gelatin methacryloyl for biomedical applications. Physics of Fluids. 32, 033102 (2020);

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