Scientists from the Biomedical Engineering Division, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have developed a new protein-based gel that mimics properties of skin and blood vessels when exposed to light to heal wounds instantly. The new gel - photocrosslinkable elastin-like polypeptide-based (ELP) hydrogel upon getting exposed to light forms strong bonds between molecules of the gel, which provides mechanical stability without the need for any chemical modifiers.
Hydrogels can mimic properties of human tissue but currently they have limitations. Synthetic gels degrade into toxic chemicals over time and natural gels are not strong enough to withstand the flow of blood through them. The study published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials stated that ELP hydrogel can be digested overtime and that it does not have toxic effects. Moreover, swelling of the gel could be controlled and it could withstand more stretching than experienced by arterial tissues in the body.
These ELP hydrogels could be used as a scaffold to grow cells or can be mixed with cells in a dish and then injected to stimulate tissue growth. The material could also be used to seal a wound externally.