Understanding influence of particle shape in hydrogel function – improving design for encouraging tissue repair
Plants need soft, structured soil, so their roots can weave through spaces between particles. Cells in the body trying to re-grow enjoy similarly porous growth conditions, which granular hydrogels – injectable growth-encouraging materials – can provide during tissue repair after injury or disease. Researchers thought the shape of particles in these hydrogels might impact the ease with which cells grow, so ran digital simulations of bead transport through materials composed of small (left) and larger (middle) spheres, or rod-shaped particles (right). Beads moved more freely through pores in the rodded material, with more interconnected pathways. This ease of access helped cell growth in practice too: in experiments various cell types penetrated the material and grew at a higher density in hydrogels with rod-shaped particles than with spherical. Improved hydrogel design could lead to more efficient repair and regeneration in injured tissue, and better outcomes for patients.
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