Imagine being able to swiftly correct your broken vocal cord and have the ability to repair your damaged heart?
In a major advancement in regenerative medicine, scientists form the prestigious McGill University with the combination of knowledge of chemistry, physics, biology and engineering have developed a new biomaterial for wound repair. The developed biomaterial is tough enough to repair the heart, the muscles, and even the vocal cords in what can be termed a new technological leap.
With the inherent challenges in healing now close to call with the new material, Guangyu Bao, a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at McGill University had this to say about the development:
“People recovering from heart damage often face a long and tricky journey. Healing is challenging because of the constant movement tissues must withstand as the heart beats. The same is true for vocal cords. Until now there was no injectable material strong enough for the job.”
Illustration shows the use of injectable hydrogel as an implant to fill a wound and to restore the voice. Credit: Sepideh Mohammadi
Professor Luc Mongeau and Assistant Professor Jianyu Li led the team which developed a new injectable hydrogel that is drafted for wound repair. The hydrogel a type of biomaterial that provides room for cells to live and grow, upon injection into the body makes the biomaterial to form a stable, porous structure that allows live cells grow or pass through to repair the injured organs.
“The results are promising, and we hope that one day the new hydrogel will be used as an implant to restore the voice of people with damaged vocal cords, for example laryngeal cancer survivors,” says Guangyu Bao.
The flow, mimicking the blood in the human body, passes through 6 centimeter-long hydrogels in the vocal cord bioreactor during testing. Credit: Guangyu Bao
In a bid to put to test their work, the scientists had to test how durable their hydrogel is and they had to use a machine developed by them to simulate the extreme biomechanics of human vocal cords. The new biomaterial while vibrating at 120 times a second for over 6 million cycles, remained intact while other standard hydrogels fractured into pieces, as they could not deal with the stress of the load.
“We were incredibly excited to see it worked perfectly in our test. Before our work, no injectable hydrogels possessed both high porosity and toughness at the same time. To solve this issue, we introduced a pore-forming polymer to our formula,” says Guangyu Bao.
The researchers tested three different hydrogels using the vocal cord bioreactor. While the new hydrogel remained stable, the two standard hydrogels, which represent most existing injectable hydrogels, did not survive the test. Credit: Sareh Taheri
According to the scientists, the innovation will serve a precursor for applications in drug delivery, tissue engineering, and the creation of model tissues for drug screening, with the team looking to use the hydrogel technology to create lungs to test COVID-19 drugs.
“Our work highlights the synergy of materials science, mechanical engineering, and bioengineering in creating novel biomaterials with unprecedented performance. We are looking forward to translating them into the clinic”, said Professor Jianyu Li, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Biomaterials and Musculoskeletal Health.
Reference: “Injectable, Pore-Forming, Perfusable Double-Network Hydrogels Resilient to Extreme Biomechanical Stimulations” by Sareh Taheri, Guangyu Bao, Zixin He, Sepideh Mohammadi, Hossein Ravanbakhsh, Larry Lessard, Jianyu Li and Luc Mongeau, 22 November 2021, Advanced Science.