Stretchy Hydrogels Spur Tissue Engineering

An electrically conductive hydrogel that can withstand repeated stretching and bending could lead to the development of the next generation of implantable devices.

AsianScientist (Jun 27, 2014) – A team from Tohoku University has created the first stretchable and durable electrode-hydrogel hybrid. This technology opens new prospects in wearable and implantable devices, where it must withstand repeated stretching and sterilization procedures while maintaining electrical conductivity.

The device retained its shape and electrical conductivity after 100 times of repeated bending, 100 times of stretching up to twice its original length, 6 months of immersion in water and autoclaving, a common sterilization method where pressurized steam up to 120°C is applied for 20 minutes.

The authors also showed that neural and muscle cells cultured on their hydrogel substrate could adhere, proliferate and differentiate, prerequisites for the development of bio-integrated wearable devices. Coupled with the demonstrated durability under extreme conditions and its non-toxic nature, these findings advance the field of tissue engineering and could spur the development of integrated electronics.

The key to the device’s performance lies in the materials of the electrode and the hydrogel. The electrode is a polymeric material that must be both electrically conductive and mechanically stretchable.

To achieve this, the team, led by Prof. Matsuhiko Nishizawa, combined PEDOT, a type of electrically conducting polymer that is biocompatible, with polyurethane, an elastic material used commonly as synthetic rubber, to produce the electrode. This electrode was then deposited on a flexible but durable hydrogel.

“Our study paves the way for the development of complex electronically responsive and spatially controlled nerve muscle cell co-cultures, opening a new avenue of ‘intelligent biorobotics’,” writes the group in Advanced Healthcare Materials.

The article can be found at: Sasaki et al. (2014) Highly Conductive Stretchable and Biocompatible Electrode-Hydrogel Hybrids for Advanced Tissue Engineering.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Tohoku University.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Chandra is an editor working at World Scientific Publishing. He has a PhD in biomaterials engineering.

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