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Magnetic Massaging Hydrogels For Muscle Regeneration

Materials Science: Biocompatible implants help heal skeletal muscle injuries in mice

by Matt Davenport
February 1, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 5

Two microscope images compare muscle healing in mice subject to a hydrogel massage therapy.
Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University
Myofibers in mouse skeletal muscles (pink) regrew to larger diameters in injuries treated with a hydrogel (right) than in untreated injuries (left).

Physicians often prescribe massage therapy to help treat strains and other common injuries to skeletal muscles. An international research team has now developed an implantable, magnetic hydrogel that could free up therapists’ healing hands (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2016, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1517517113). Led by David J. Mooney of Harvard University, the team demonstrated that its drug-free hydrogel helps regenerate damaged skeletal muscles in mice. The researchers first developed a biocompatible hydrogel using peptide-modified alginate. They then loaded the gel with iron oxide powder, which allowed them to stretch and contract the material using a magnetic field. After implanting the hydrogel in the damaged muscle of mice, the team magnetically massaged the injuries for five minutes every 12 hours over the course of weeks. Compared with untreated injuries, hydrogel-massaged muscles regenerated larger fibers and could sustain higher contraction forces, the team reports. Ideally, researchers would develop external devices to deliver similarly effective therapies, Mooney tells C&EN, but implantable hydrogels could provide a means to treat deeper injuries. The team’s gels could also be loaded with biologics, such as growth factors, for use in combination therapies, Mooney says.


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