BOSTON, July 2 (UPI) -- Scientists have created a stretchable hydrogel that can be used as a sealant that develops a barrier and promotes wound healing.
The elastin-like polypeptide-based, or ELP, hydrogel is formed using a polypeptide that, when exposed to light forms strong bonds between its molecules, which provides mechanical stability that allows for the control of its strength and how much it swells when used.
"Our hydrogel has many applications: It could be used as a scaffold to grow cells, or it can be incorporated with cells in a dish and then injected to stimulate tissue growth," Nasim Annabi of the biomedical engineering division at Brigham and Women's Hospital said in a press release. "In addition, the material can be used as a sealant, sticking to the tissue at the site of injury and creating a barrier over a wound. This could allow us to immediately stop bleeding with one treatment."
Part of what makes ELP hydrogel different, researchers said, is that it can be digested over time by naturally occurring enzymes and does not appear to be toxic to cells.
"Some synthetic gels degrade into toxic chemicals over time, and some natural gels are not strong enough to withstand the flow of arterial blood through them," said Ali Khademhosseini, also of the biomedical engineering division at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Hydrogels are used widely in biomedicine, however most of them have limitations. Annabi said the elasticity of ELP hydrogel is a better fit for use growing tissues than other hydrogels because of its elasticity and ability to better mimic skin and blood vessels.
Researchers found they could use ELP hydrogel to create a powerful barrier that promotes healing by combining it with silica nanoparticles that have been previously found to stop bleeding.
The study is published in Advanced Functional Materials.