The new synthetic polymer material creates an instant scaffold, sort of like stacked gumballs, that allows new tissue to latch on and grow within the cavities formed between linked spheres of gel.
Conventionally, ointments and other hydrogel dressings have been used to fill in wounds to keep the areas moist and accelerate healing. But none of the materials used now provide a scaffold to allow new tissue to grow while the dressing itself degrades. As a result, the new tissue growth is relatively slow and fragile.
So bringing about an injectable biomaterial that promotes rapid regeneration of tissue has been a “holy grail” in the field of tissue engineering, said co-principal investigator Dino Di Carlo.
They envision the material being useful for a wide variety of wound application, including lacerations to large-area burns.
UC Berkeley researchers have also been developing new approaches to tissue engineering. Last March, their advancement in “herding cells” marked a new direction for smart bandages.