Although they look like play putty, these colourful shapes are not toys for children. They are in fact made of cryogel, a cutting-edge material which can absorb large amounts of water and still keep its original shape. This sponge-like substance, which mimics the structure of living tissues, could provide a perfect framework around which new cells could grow. But, while other materials that could fulfil this function already exist, how to implant these scaffolds into patients has long been a problem. Cryogels may provide a solution. These shapes are nearly half a centimetre across, but retain their form even after being squeezed through a hypodermic needle. This may allow the revolutionary step of injecting precisely-shaped scaffolds to guide tissue reconstruction without serious surgery. Furthermore, it also solves that age-old infant's problem: how do you push a square shape through a round hole?
Written by Jan Piotrowski
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