Dental Tribune International

New hydrogel shows promise in dental and craniofacial tissue engineering

By Dental Tribune International
September 20, 2019

LOS ANGELES, U.S.: Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry have developed a new hydrogel that shows high porosity and effectiveness in promoting tissue repair and regeneration. The study findings suggest that the next generation of hydrogel systems could greatly improve current biomaterial-based therapeutics to repair bone defects in the near future.

Hydrogels are biomaterials that are made up of a 3D network of polymer chains. Owing to the network’s ability to absorb water and its structural similarities to living tissue, it can be used to deliver cells to defective areas to regenerate lost tissue. However, the small pore size of hydrogels limits the survival of the transplanted cells, their expansion and new tissue formation, making this less than ideal for regenerating tissue.

One material that has been of interest in the field of biomaterials is naturally occurring mineral clay. It has become an ideal additive to medical products and has no reported negative effects. It has been shown to be biocompatible and is readily available.

Clay is structured in layers and its surface has a negative charge. This unique layered structure and charge were important to the research team, as the hydrogel they used had a positive charge. When the hydrogel was inserted into the clay layers through the process of intercalation chemistry, the end result was a clay-enhanced hydrogel with a much more porous structure, improving bone formation.

Once the researchers had produced the clay-enhanced hydrogel, they used the process of photoinduction to turn their new biomaterial into a gel, which would make it easier for it to be injected into the mouse model. The mouse model had a nonhealing skull defect into which the researchers injected the clay-enhanced hydrogel. After six weeks, they found that the model showed significant bone healing through its own naturally occurring stem cell migration and growth.

When asked by Dental Tribune International what the study results mean for dentistry and, specifically, for implantology, lead author Dr. Min Lee, Professor of Biomaterials Science at the university, answered: “This research will help us develop the next generation of hydrogel systems with high porosity for better bone repair and could greatly improve current bone graft materials.”

Injectable combinations of living cells and bioactive molecules using hydrogels would be a preferred medical application to treat unhealthy or damaged areas of the body rather than more invasive surgery.

Future research is planned to investigate how the physical properties of nanocomposite hydrogels affect the migration of cells and their function as well as the formation of blood vessels.

“Our nanocomposite hydrogel system will be useful for many applications, including therapeutic delivery, cell carriers, and dental and craniofacial tissue engineering,” concluded Lee.

The study, titled “Microporous methacrylated glycol chitosan-montmorillonite nanocomposite hydrogel for bone tissue engineering,” was published on Aug. 6, 2019, in Nature Communications.

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