A new hydrogel has been developed by scientists which shows promise in repairing damaged hearts, making it a favorable choice for Valentine’s Day in the field of science

Researchers have developed a new hydrogel that can repair damaged heart tissue and also enhance cancer treatments.

The gel is made of cellulose nanocrystals derived from wood pulp, which replicates the fibrous nanostructures and properties of human tissues, thus recreating its unique biomechanical properties.

Dr. Elisabeth Prince, a chemical engineering researcher at the University of Waterloo, collaborated with researchers from the University of Toronto and Duke University to design this synthetic material. This Valentine’s day, people can mend their broken hearts knowing that this innovative material is available.

Advancements in Personalized Cancer Treatment

“Cancer is a diverse disease and two patients with the same type of cancer will often respond to the same treatment in very different ways,” Prince said. “Tumour organoids are essentially a miniaturized version of an individual patient’s tumor that can be used for drug testing, which could allow researchers to develop personalized therapies for a specific patient.”

Prince, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Waterloo, is the director of the Prince Polymer Materials Lab. As part of her work, Prince designs synthetic biomimetic hydrogels that have a nanofibrous architecture with large pores for nutrient and waste transport. These hydrogels are utilized for biomedical applications, and they affect mechanical properties and cell interactions.

Recently, Prince and Professor David Cescon at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center conducted research that utilized these hydrogels to promote the growth of small-scale tumor replicas derived from donated tumor tissue. The goal of this research is to test the effectiveness of cancer treatments on the mini-tumor organoids before administering the treatment to patients, potentially allowing for personalized cancer therapies.

Breakthroughs in Tissue Regeneration

The research group led by Prince at the University of Waterloo is working on developing biomimetic hydrogels that can be injected for drug delivery and regenerative medical applications. Waterloo researchers are at the forefront of health innovation in Canada.

The research aims to use injected filamentous hydrogel material to regrow heart tissue that has been damaged after a heart attack. Nanofibers are used as a scaffolding for the regrowth and healing of damaged heart tissue.
“We are building on the work that I started during my Ph.D. to design human-tissue mimetic hydrogels that can be injected into the human body to deliver therapeutics and repair the damage caused to the heart when a patient suffers a heart attack,” Prince said.

Prince’s research is unique because the majority of gels that are currently used in tissue engineering or 3D cell culture do not have the nanofibrous architecture that Prince’s group uses. To create these materials, Prince’s group uses nanoparticles and polymers as building blocks and develops chemistry for nanostructures that accurately mimic human tissues.

The next step in Prince’s research is to use conductive nanoparticles to create electrically conductive nanofibrous gels that could be used to heal heart and skeletal muscle tissue.

This news is a creative derivative product from articles published in famous peer-reviewed journals and Govt reports:

1. “Nanocolloidal hydrogel mimics the structure and nonlinear mechanical properties of biological fibrous networks” by Elisabeth Prince, Sofia Morozova, Zhengkun Chen, Vahid Adibnia, Ilya Yakavets, Sergey Panyukov, Michael Rubinstein and Eugenia Kumacheva, 13 December 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2220755120
2. M. Schliwa, The Cytoskeleton (Springer, 2012).
3. F. T. Bosman, I. Stamenkovic, Functional structure and composition of the extracellular matrix. J. Pathol. 200, 423–428 (2003).
4. A. E. X. Brown, R. I. Litvinov, D. E. Discher, P. K. Purohit, J. W. Weisel, Multiscale mechanics of fibrin polymer: Gel stretching with protein unfolding and loss of water. Science 325, 741–744 (2009).
5. R. S. Sopher et al., Nonlinear elasticity of the ECM fibers facilitates efficient intercellular communication. Biophys. J. 115, 1357–1370 (2018).

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