Many scientific discoveries, from penicillin to Viagra, came about entirely by happy accident. A recent addition is hydrogel with shape-memory. This soft and squishy material can absorb large amounts of water and mimic the texture of human tissue. Now it can also be made to run like liquid, and to return to its original shape by submerging it in water (pictured). In future, we might see it loaded with drugs for precise delivery in spaces opened by wounds, or injected in body cavities as a liquid that sets into a pre-shaped scaffold on which cells can grow to regenerate missing tissue. Researchers discovered the property by chance after synthesising a mass of artificial DNA that looked like a tangle of tiny yarn-like bundles linked by long DNA chains. They noticed that adding water made the liquid mass return to the shape of the container where it was first made.
Written by Tristan Farrow
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