27 March 2008

New hydrogel for joint prostheses and contact lenses

The nondescript-looking slippery jelly-like material, which appeared as a result of the joint work of American and Japanese scientists, will soon improve the quality of various medical devices, from contact lenses to prosthetic joints.

Most hydrogels are no stronger than ordinary jelly and break down even with a little effort. The new hydrogel retains its shape and elasticity even under very heavy loads.

In addition to water, the hydrogel contains two inexpensive polymers. One of them is a solid charged material, the particles of which "stick" to the particles of the second, uncharged liquid polymer.

If a crack appears in a solid polymer, it is filled with a liquid polymer, which ensures the elimination of defects.

The new material turned out to be not only as transparent and smooth as real cartilage, but also much softer and more wear-resistant than modern materials used for the manufacture of artificial joints. The authors claim that it will be able to withstand much greater shock loads than modern orthopedic materials.

In addition, the new hydrogel is resistant to the accumulation of proteins, which indicates the possibility of its use for the manufacture of contact lenses and artificial cornea of the eye.

The results of hydrogel testing on animals are very promising, however, clinical trials on humans have yet to be conducted before its introduction into practical medicine.

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