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Peptide-Based Hydrogels Repair Damaged Organs and Tissues On-The-Spot

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 15 May 2024

Scientists have ingeniously combined biomedical expertise with nature-inspired engineering to develop a jelly-like material that holds significant promise for immediate repairs to a wide variety of damaged organs and tissues in the human body. This groundbreaking research could potentially transform millions of lives through the use of peptide-based hydrogels, which are designed to seal skin wounds, administer therapeutic agents to injured heart muscle, and aid in the reshaping and healing of damaged corneas.

Peptides are organic molecules found in living organisms, while hydrogels are water-based, gelatinous substances that have already shown their utility in therapeutic applications. Unlike most hydrogels used in tissue engineering, which are derived from animal sources and protein-based, the biomaterial developed by the collaborative effort from the University of Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) incorporates specially engineered peptides, enhancing its clinical applicability. The key to their utility lies in their modifiability; the hydrogels from the uOttawa team are designed to be highly customizable. This robust material can be tailored for different tissue needs by adjusting its adhesiveness or altering other properties to suit specific repair needs within the body.

Image: A journal cover illustration submitted by the research team depicting the study`s impact (Photo courtesy of Dr. Emilio Alarcon, University of Ottawa)
Image: A journal cover illustration submitted by the research team depicting the study`s impact (Photo courtesy of Dr. Emilio Alarcon, University of Ottawa)

According to the researchers, not only do their findings indicate that the hydrogels are highly effective for therapeutic use, but their application is also simpler and more cost-effective than other regenerative methods. Engineered to be both low-cost and scalable, these materials possess critical attributes for widespread biomedical use. Additionally, the team has developed a rapid screening protocol that drastically cuts both the costs of design and the duration of testing. Moving forward, the research group plans to undertake large animal studies in preparation for human trials. Preliminary tests have been performed on the heart and skin using rodent models, and corneal tests have been conducted ex vivo.

“We are using peptides to fabricate therapeutic solutions. The team is drawing inspiration from nature to develop simple solutions for wound closure and tissue repair,” said uOttawa Faculty of Medicine Associate Professor Dr. Emilio I. Alarcón. “We were in fact very surprised by the range of applications our materials can achieve. Our technology offers an integrated solution that is customizable depending on the targeted tissue.”

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