JUL 18, 2020 5:34 PM PDT

Scientists develop new hydrogel material

A study published recently is Soft Matter from scientists at Lehigh University describes a hydrogel material that is able to degrade and spontaneously reform in the gastrointestinal tract. The hydrogel has the potential to enhance oral drug delivery. 

"The majority of drugs and nutrients are absorbed into the body in the intestines, but to get there, they have to traverse the stomach -- a very acidic, harsh environment that can interfere with the active molecules in pharmaceuticals," says Kelly Schultz, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. 

Covalent adaptable hydrogels, known as CAHs, could help solve that problem. Schultz and fellow researchers developed a "GI tract-on-a-chip” to help mimic the internal pH of the GI tract in order to test CAHs that are targeted for drug delivery. The ones they are working on need to be able to release molecules as they lose polymer in the stomach but then re-gel on their own, which protects the molecules and allows them to stay active for targeted delivery in the intestines. 

"CAHs exhibit unusual spontaneous re-gelation that is really surprising," Schultz says. "Typically, gels won't degrade and then reform without any added stimuli as these do. We've demonstrated the viability of CAHs as means of oral drug and nutrient delivery, and now we're starting to work on molecular release studies and adding in other components to make the experiments more complex."

The team uses microrheology to collect microscopy data and measure how much particles within the gel wiggle, later tracking this information with algorithms in order to understand which materials are the most effective. 

Photo: Pixabay

The researchers hope that their findings will eventually lead to improvements in health care. "What we do in biomaterials is somewhat unique: There's a lot of work on the cross-linking chemistry and actually developing these materials, and there's a lot of animal research that implants and tests them, but there's not that much work in the middle,” concludes Schultz. “A great deal of mystery lies between designing a material and understanding what's going on when it's working. We're trying to find new ways that we can replicate what's going on inside of an animal or a person and collect important measurements to connect the dots and inform further studies."

Sources: Soft Matter, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
OCT 14, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The CRISPR Nobel Win from Different Angles
OCT 14, 2020
The CRISPR Nobel Win from Different Angles
CRISPR-Cas9 was THE buzz word in the world of science after the Nobel Chemistry Prize announcement last week. But depend ...
DEC 04, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Fusions in Action: Scientists Confirm a Different Way the Sun Produces Energy
DEC 04, 2020
Fusions in Action: Scientists Confirm a Different Way the Sun Produces Energy
Since its formation, the Sun has been the main power source for all objects within its irradiation range, putting out 3. ...
DEC 11, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Cosmic Expansion: Universe Stretches, We don't
DEC 11, 2020
Cosmic Expansion: Universe Stretches, We don't
Physicists believe that we exist in an expanding universe. But what does that mean? Do our habitats, bodies, and atoms & ...
DEC 15, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Graphite-bolstered cement could help reduce methane emissions from natural gas wells
DEC 15, 2020
Graphite-bolstered cement could help reduce methane emissions from natural gas wells
A team of scientists from Penn State has developed a new, flexible cement made from nanomaterials that could help solve ...
DEC 19, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Urine Tests Sets Parents' Minds at Ease in Minutes After a Miscarriage Threat
DEC 19, 2020
Urine Tests Sets Parents' Minds at Ease in Minutes After a Miscarriage Threat
Researchers have developed a chip-based test that can determine pregnancy outcomes after the signs of a possible miscarr ...
JAN 18, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Watching the eletronic signals of a wandering mind
JAN 18, 2021
Watching the eletronic signals of a wandering mind
A study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences contemplates the places our minds ...
Loading Comments...