Despite consisting primarily of water, a hydrogel can be manipulated to demonstrate 100 to 1000 times the strength of competing gels, according to the product’s manufacturer, AGT Sciences Ltd. (West Yorkshire, UK; www.agtsciences.com). The gel can be employed in a range of medical applications, including wound care, drug delivery, tissue engineering, and orthopedics.
The flexible properties of the gel derive from the covalent bonds formed by two elastic-like molecules. Modifying the number of bonds enables the manipulation of the gel to exhibit the desired physiochemical properties. It can be altered to be thick, thin, or sticky, depending on the application. The hydrogel can also hold molecules of other substances, regardless of whether they are water soluble or water insoluble, according to the company.
Although the polymer gel can be supplied in either liquid or solid form, the latter can have a water content exceeding 90% and still exhibit high mechanical strength. It also can be extruded into films. Furthermore, the cross-linking reaction is unaffected by the presence of other substances and is reversible, if desired. Additional properties of the nontoxic hydrogel include temperature and radiation resistance.
AGT is exploring a variety of medical applications for the hydrogel through its extensive R&D endeavors. Among its focuses is the use of the gel in wound dressings. The company anticipates that the product could be incorporated into diagnostic dressings designed to relay such data as the pH of the wound bed, presence of enzymes, and level of bacterial infection. Sustained release of infection-fighting agents from antibacterial dressings could also be facilitated by the hydrogel.