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EPFL develops hydrogel that repairs tears in human tissue

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Peyman Karami (right) developed a gel that repairs tears in human tissue in Dominique Pioletti’s (right) Laboratory of Biomechanical Orthopedics. | © Alain Herzog – EPFL

EPFL scientists have developed an injectable gel that can attach to various kinds of soft internal tissues and repair tears resulting from an accident or trauma.

Human soft tissues can be torn during a ski accident, a car accident or an accident in the home, for example. And surgeons can have a hard time binding the tissue back together, as stitches often do more harm than good, usually not allowing repaired tissues not heal properly.  

Researchers around the world have been trying for years to develop an adhesive for soft tissue that can withstand the natural stresses and strains within the human body.

A team from the Laboratory of Biomechanical Orthopedics (LBO) at EPFL’s School of Engineering has come up with a novel family of injectable biomaterials that can bind to various forms of soft tissue. Their bioadhesives, in the form of a gel, can be used in a variety of injury-treatment applications.

The hydrogel produced at the EPFL in Lausanne (canton of Vaud) is made up of 85% water and has two key advantages: it can be injected anywhere in the human body, and it demonstrates high intrinsic adhesion with no extra surface treatment.

“What makes our hydrogel different is that it changes consistency while providing high adhesion to soft tissues,” says Peyman Karami, a postdoc who has developed the gel during his PhD. “It’s injected in a liquid form, but then sets when a light source is applied, enabling it to adhere to surrounding tissue.”

A versatile hydrogel with numerous orthopedic applications

The scientists’ hydrogel works through an entirely new design that allows for independent control of its mechanical and adhesive properties. The result is a versatile hydrogel that doctors can use as a glue for soft tissue throughout the human body.

The LBO team has received an Innosuisse grant to study potential orthopedic applications in association with surgeons at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV). They hope to be able to launch their hydrogel on the market within the next five years.

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