Oxford invents intelligent hydrogel -

Scientists affiliated with Oxford University have announced details of an intelligent hydrogel that they promise can revolutionise tissue expansion by surgeons.

According to researchers, new funding will help the development of a hydrogel that is able to control the direction timing and rate of expansion of a material used for a variety of tissue reconstruction needs.

Rather than traditional methods, often involving an inflatable balloon gradually filled with a silicon substance, the team has devised a method that can more easily be used in “delicate anatomical locations”.

Crucially, surgeons will have precise control over the size of the implanted device, how and in what direction it will grow, and over what period of time.

This means that there is greater scope for using the technology with the delicate tissue of children, one of the main reasons for the developments.

Adults often require more nuance care,  so it's possible to use the hydrogel in reconstructive surgery and restorative dentistry. For example, the technology is often required for reconstructing tissue following burns or cancer surgery.

And the researchers hope that their intelligent hydrogel offers a significantly improved version of inflatable devices and other types of hydrogel.

Their version means that, thanks to its self-inflation, injection ports are not necessary. Further, a precisely controlled expansion rate over six weeks to six months can minimise the likelihood of tissue necrosis and potential for device extrusion.

The new gel promises surgeons greater control over shaping, meaning it's easier to attain a better fit.

The researchers have received £365,000 in funding to develop the technology and trials will begin with restorative dentistry Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

 According to the researchers their method will allow “clinicians to treat more cases, at a lower cost, and hopefully with a better patient outcome.”