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Tough Double Network Hydrogels as Artificial Supporting Tissues

Jian Ping Gong Laboratory of Soft & Wet Matter, Graduate School of Life Science, Hokkaido University

The soft supporting tissues in the human body, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons are tough and firmly fixed to bones. These soft tissues, once injured, cannot regenerate spontaneously in vivo. Therefore, artificial supporting tissues would substantially improve outcomes after soft tissue injury. However, to date, no materials have been developed that are sufficiently tough, yet soft and flexible, for bonding to bone. Hydrogels that are sufficiently tough to be applied as articular soft supporting tissues have recently been developed. However, bonding of hydrogels to other surfaces is difficult because the main component of hydrogels is water. Indeed, fixation of tough hydrogels to bone surfaces with strength to support mobility is a challenge. Here, we present the development of a novel, tough double network hydrogel that is directly bondable to the bone. This is the first report describing a hydrogel that can bond with bone permanently, strongly, and without toxic effects. Because this innovative approach is applicable for the production of various tough hydrogels, we expect that hydrogels composed of different biological or synthetic polymers will exhibit in vivo bonding to bone, allowing successful application of soft materials as artificial supporting tissues.