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Protein-based biomaterial mimics skin

Image courtesy of Nasim Annabi, Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Researchers from the biomedical engineering division at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston have developed a protein based gel that mimics many of the physical

properties of elastic tissues, such as skin and blood vessels, and have reported on using the material in preclinical models of wound healing.

In the research paper on the new hydrogel, published in Advanced Functional Materials (Aug.12, 2015; 25(30):4814-4826), the investigators report the material showed a high level of biocompatibility in both in vivo and in vitro tests, long-term stability, and early and progressive host integration. According to the authors, these elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs) have not triggered any immune response in the in vivo tests, suggesting they may have potential in supporting wound repair. As well, the amount of light exposure used when manufacturing the polypeptide gel, the strength of the molecular bonds and consequently the elastic properties of the material could be precisely controlled without the addition of chemical modifiers.

“Our hydrogel has many applications:it could be used as a scaffold to grow cells or it can be incorporated with cells in a dish and then injected to stimulate tissue growth,” said study author Nasim Annabi, PhD, in a press release. “In addition, the material can be used as a sealant, sticking to the tissue at the site of injury and creating a barrier over a wound.”

The ELP gel could also be combined with silica nanoparticles—already known to stop bleeding—which would boost the potential for the new material in a wound healing application, according to the press release.

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