Futurity

Drug delivery gel can heal without the drugs

Scientists were surprised to learn that a hydrogel they developed to deliver drugs had its own therapeutic qualities.

Researchers were surprised to learn that a hydrogel they developed as a synthetic scaffold to deliver drugs has its own therapeutic qualities, even without its cargo.

During development, the researchers often tested the hydrogels by infusing them with bioactive small molecules, cells, or proteins before injection. The researchers report in the journal Biomaterials that a particular hydrogel, a self-assembling multidomain peptide (MDP) with the amino acid sequence K2(SL)6K2, is indeed bioactive.

hydrogel
Tests show that subcutaneous implants, left, of a hydrogel encouraged blood vessel and cell growth as new tissue replaced the degrading gel. (Credit: Hartgerink Research Group)

Once the researchers started to investigate the phenomenon, they found that even without additives their MDP:

  • is rapidly infiltrated by host cells,
  • provokes a temporary inflammatory response,
  • does not develop a fibrous capsule,
  • supports the infiltration of a mature vascular network,
  • and recruits nerve fibers.

“We were surprised to find this strong effect in what we had previously considered to be a control peptide,” says Jeffrey Hartgerink, a professor of chemistry and of bioengineering at Rice University. “As it turned out, the inherent structure and chemistry of this peptide, despite being quite simple, results in a strong biological response.”

Researchers designed the hydrogel, which they can deliver through a syringe, to degrade over six weeks and leave behind healthy tissue. Because the researchers designed the peptides from the bottom up to mimic their natural counterparts, the lab found they create an optimal environment for the body’s own systems to encourage healing.

The researchers report that the natural inflammatory response when a foreign substance like a hydrogel is introduced into a system and draws cells that secrete proteins involved in cellular infiltration, scaffold degradation, vascularization, and innervation.

Tests on injected hydrogel showed a “statistically significant” increase in the presence of cytokines known to provoke an inflammatory response, as well as an increase in anti-inflammatory agents, both of which remained steady after day three and through two weeks.

That, Hartgerink says, indicates the hydrogel appears to harness the body’s innate capacity to heal as it transitions from a pro-inflammatory to a pro-healing environment.

“As we eventually discovered, this exceptional peptide allows the body to carry out healing on its own, but with a significant boost,” he says. “We believe the key step is the initial, and very rapid, cell infiltration. Once these cells are on location, they produce everything they need for an impressive regenerative response, including angiogenesis and neurogenesis.”

Hartgerink says the lab is pursuing application of the peptide for wound-healing in diabetic ulcers.

The National Institutes of Health, the Welch Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology, and a Stauffer-Rothrock Fellowship supported the research.

Source: Rice University

The post Drug delivery gel can heal without the drugs appeared first on Futurity.

More from Futurity

Futurity2 min read
How To Prep For (and Recover From) Natural Disasters
In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, which the National Weather Service called one of the most powerful to make landfall in modern history, two experts discuss how to prepare for—and recover from—a storm. The hurricane’s 185 mph winds and rampant floodin
Futurity3 min readScience
Method Treats Chronic Neuropathic Pain Without Surgery
Researchers have come up with an effective, minimally invasive way to treat the intractable and growing problem of chronic neuropathic pain. “Our preclinical research findings suggest an entirely new procedure and novel target in the brain to allevia
Futurity3 min readPsychology
Robotic Fish Predator Strikes Fear Into Invasive Species
Robotic fish can be a valuable tool in the fight against one of the world’s most problematic invasive species, the mosquitofish, researchers report. Invasive species control is notoriously challenging, especially in lakes and rivers where native fish