Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 


Injectable sponge delivers drugs, cells, and structure

Compressible bioscaffold pops back to its molded shape once inside the body
Bioengineers at Harvard have developed a gel-based sponge that can be molded to any shape, loaded with drugs or stem cells, compressed to a fraction of its size, and delivered via injection. Once inside the body, it pops back to its original shape and gradually releases its cargo, before safely degrading.

The biocompatible technology, revealed this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, amounts to a prefabricated healing kit for a range of minimally invasive therapeutic applications, including regenerative medicine.

“What we’ve created is a three-dimensional structure that you could use to influence the cells in the tissue surrounding it and perhaps promote tissue formation,” explains principal investigator David J. Mooney, Robert P. Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.

“The simplest application is when you want bulking,” Mooney explains. “If you want to introduce some material into the body to replace tissue that’s been lost or that is deficient, this would be ideal. In other situations, you could use it to transplant stem cells if you’re trying to promote tissue regeneration, or you might want to transplant immune cells, if you’re looking at immunotherapy.”

Consisting primarily of alginate, a seaweed-based jelly, the injectable sponge contains networks of large pores, which allow liquids and large molecules to easily flow through it. Mooney and his research team demonstrated that live cells can be attached to the walls of this network and delivered intact along with the sponge, through a small-bore needle. Mooney’s team also demonstrated that the sponge can hold large and small proteins and drugs within the alginate jelly itself, which are gradually released as the biocompatible matrix starts to break down inside the body.

Normally, a scaffold like this would have to be implanted surgically. Gels can also be injected, but until now those gels would not have carried any inherent structure; they would simply flow to fill whatever space was available.

“Our scaffolds can be designed in any size and shape, and injected in situ as a safe, preformed, fully characterized, sterile, and controlled delivery device for cells and drugs,” says lead author Sidi Bencherif, a postdoctoral research associate in Mooney’s lab at SEAS and at the Wyss Institute.

Bencherif and his colleagues pushed pink squares, hearts, and stars through a syringe to demonstrate the versatility and robustness of their gel (see video).

The spongelike gel is formed through a freezing process called cryogelation. As the water in the alginate solution starts to freeze, pure ice crystals form, which makes the surrounding gel more concentrated as it sets. Later on, the ice crystals melt, leaving behind a network of pores. By carefully calibrating this mixture and the timing of the freezing process, Mooney, Bencherif, and their colleagues found that they could produce a gel that is extremely strong and compressible, unlike most alginate gels, which are brittle.

The resulting “cryogel” fills a gap that has previously been unmet in biomedical engineering.

“These injectable cryogels will be especially useful for a number of clinical applications including cell therapy, tissue engineering, dermal filler in cosmetics, drug delivery, and scaffold-based immunotherapy,” says Bencherif. “Furthermore, the ability of these materials to reassume specific, pre-defined shapes after injection is likely to be useful in applications such as tissue patches where one desires a patch of a specific size and shape, and when one desires to fill a large defect site with multiple smaller objects. These could pack in such a manner to leave voids that enhance diffusional transport to and from the objects and the host, and promote vascularization around each object.”

The next step in the team’s research is to perfect the degradation rate of the scaffold so that it breaks down at the same rate at which newly grown tissue replaces it. Harvard’s Office of Technology Development has filed patent applications on the invention and is actively pursuing licensing and commercialization opportunities.

Coauthors included R. Warren Sands, Deen Bhatta, and Catia S. Verbeke at SEAS; Praveen Arany at SEAS and the Wyss Institute; and David Edwards, who is Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Bioengineering at SEAS and a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute.

The research was supported by the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, the National Institutes of Health, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Supplemental videos are available, via PNAS, here:


Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Caroline Perry, (617) 496-1351

Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
Kristen Kusek, (617) 432-8266

Caroline Perry | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Make way for the mini flying machines
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

nachricht New 4-D printer could reshape the world we live in
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Forscher des Fraunhofer FHR begleiten Wiedereintritt der chinesischen Raumstation Tiangong-1

Die chinesische Raumstation Tiangong-1 wird in wenigen Wochen in die Erdatmosphäre eintreten und zu einem großen Teil verglühen. Dabei können auch Trümmerteile den Erdboden erreichen. Tiangong-1 kreist unkontrolliert und mit ca. 29 000 km/h um die Erde. Die Wiedereintrittsprognose kann derzeit nur im Bereich von mehreren Tagen angegeben werden. Die Wissenschaftler des Fraunhofer FHR in Wachtberg bei Bonn beobachten Tiangong-1 bereits seit Wochen mit ihrem TIRA (Tracking and Imaging Radar) System, einem der leistungsfähigsten Radare zur Weltraumbeobachtung weltweit, um das nationale Weltraumlagezentrum und die ESA mit ihrer Expertise bei den Wiedereintrittsprognosen zu unterstützen.

Nach Verlust des Funkkontakts mit Tiangong-1 im Jahr 2016 ist es aufgrund der niedrigen Bahnhöhe unausweichlich, dass die chinesische Raumstation in die...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: „OLED Licht Forum" – zentraler Ansprechpartner für die Lichtquelle OLED

Das Fraunhofer-Institut für Organische Elektronik, Elektronenstrahl- und Plasmatechnik FEP, Forschungs- und Entwicklungsanbieter für OLED-Beleuchtungslösungen, ist seit 19. März 2018 Teil des neu gegründeten „OLED Licht Forums“ und präsentiert auf der light+building vom 18. – 23. März 2018, in Frankfurt a.M., in Halle 4.0 am Stand Nr. F91, neue OLED-Design- und Beleuchtungslösungen.

Sie vereint die große Leidenschaft für die OLED-Beleuchtung (organische Leuchtdioden) mit all ihren Facetten und Anwendungsmöglichkeiten. Daher haben sich...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>



Industrie & Wirtschaft

Hybrid-elektrisch angetriebene Verkehrsflugzeuge – Zukunft oder Fiktion?

20.03.2018 | Veranstaltungen

Konferenz zur virtuellen Realität kommt nach Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Veranstaltungen

Veranstaltungen zur Digitalisierung in der Weiterbildung

19.03.2018 | Veranstaltungen

Wissenschaft & Forschung
Weitere VideoLinks im Überblick >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Auf der Suche nach dem Ursprung von Planetenatmosphären

21.03.2018 | Physik Astronomie

Mit Letermovir lebensbedrohlichen Cytomegalievirus-Infektionen vorbeugen

21.03.2018 | Medizin Gesundheit

Biokraftstoffe: EU-Projekt BioMates gewinnt an Fahrt

21.03.2018 | Agrar- Forstwissenschaften

Weitere B2B-VideoLinks
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics