The research team that developed the catheter- and needle-delivered hydrogel say they've achieved proof of concept, as well as success in studies with animals.
A new shear-controlled hydrogel has shown promise when it comes to blocking blood vessels in hard to reach places, according to a researchers at Harvard University's Wyss Institute, MIT, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Mayo Clinic.
"It completely blocks vessels in situations where other methods can fail, such as in vascular areas that are highly convoluted or subject to unusual blood pressures, and, importantly, it still works when normal blood coagulation is impaired, like in patients receiving blood thinners or suffering from an intrinsic inability to efficiently form blood clots," said Ali Khademhosseini, a Harvard-MIT health sciences and technology professor.
The shear-thinning biomaterial is comprised of two components: gelatin molecules and tiny silicate nanoplatelet discs meant to mimic actual platelet cells.
When under pressure, such as when it is pressed through a syringe, the hydrogel "thins" and flows through. It solidifies again once it is no longer under pressure.
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The researchers think the hydrogel overcomes many of the challenges associated with other embolization techniques. Coil embolization, for example, requires blood clotting to work, and it can be ineffective if the coils are not properly positioned or seized. Liquid embolic agents can accidentally cememt to catheters or non-target areas.
Researchers first optimized the shear-thinning biomaterial so that it could be properly delivered through catheters and needles. They tweaked the formulation to ensure the hydrogel would not inadvertently cement to catheters. They wanted to make sure it would create a complete blockage, even amid anti-coagulants.
The researchers then engaged in in vivo studies in mice and pigs.
"In the animals, we saw that [shear-thinning biomaterials], delivered with standard clinical catheters into centrally located vessels, formed very effective casts, without leaking or fragmenting, excluding any risk of pulmonary embolisms down the line," said Reginald Avery, the first author of the study. Avery did hiswork as a graduate student with Khademhosseini and MIT associate professor Bradley Olsen.
"Moreover, the induced embolization was biodegraded and remodeled into more natural tissue by infiltrating cells over time," Avery said.
Hydrogels have been a hot field in medical device research. University of Pennsylvania researchers recently announced that modified injectable hydrogel polymers showed promise when it came to supporting damaged areas of the heart.
Chris Newmarker is senior editor of Qmed. Follow him on Twitter at @newmarker.
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[Image courtesy of Harvard's Wyss Institute]