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A hydrogel is a network of polymer chains that are hydrophilic, sometimes found as a colloidal gel in which water is the dispersion medium. Hydrogels are highly absorbent (they can contain over 90% water) natural or synthetic polymeric networks. Hydrogels also possess a degree of flexibility very similar to natural tissue, due to their significant water content.
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Once used for simple encapsulation of cells or drugs, in homogeneous materials, today’s hydrogels are more complex smart polymers with different types of ligands and cross-links allowing for highly regulated structures and different bioresponsive functionalities. The hydrophilic nature of hydrogels permits drug delivery of therapeutic materials that would otherwise denature due to hydrophobic interactions, and the protective structure also prevents destruction of cells or proteins by host immune responses, since matrix pore size can be made small enough to prevent the entry of large immune cells and antibodies.
Hydrogels are three-dimensional, cross-linked networks of water-soluble polymers. Hydrogels can be made from virtually any water-soluble polymer, encompassing a wide range of chemical compositions and bulk physical properties. Furthermore, hydrogels can be formulated in a variety of physical forms, including slabs, microparticles, nanoparticles, coatings, and films. As a result, hydrogels are commonly used in clinical practice and experimental medicine for a wide range of applications, including tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, diagnostics, cellular immobilization, separation of biomolecules or cells and barrier materials to regulate biological adhesions
The unique physical properties of hydrogels have sparked particular interest in their use in drug delivery applications. Their highly porous structure can easily be tuned by controlling the density of cross-links in the gel matrix and the affinity of the hydrogels for the aqueous environment in which they are swollen. Their porosity also permits loading of drugs into the gel matrix and subsequent drug release at a rate dependent on the diffusion coefficient of the small molecule or macromolecule through the gel network. Indeed, the benefits of hydrogels for drug delivery may be largely pharmacokinetic – specifically that a depot formulation is created from which drugs slowly elute, maintaining a high local concentration of drug in the surrounding tissues over an extended period, although they can also be used for systemic delivery. Hydrogels are also generally highly biocompatible, as reflected in their successful use in the peritoneum and other sites in vivo. Biocompatibility is promoted by the high water content of hydrogels and the physiochemical similarity of hydrogels to the native extracellular matrix, both compositionally (particularly in the case of carbohydrate-based hydrogels) and mechanically. Biodegradability or dissolution may be designed into hydrogels via enzymatic, hydrolytic, or environmental (e.g. pH, temperature, or electric field) pathways; however, degradation is not always desirable depending on the time scale and location of the drug delivery device. Hydrogels are also relatively deformable and can conform to the shape of the surface to which they are applied. In the latter context, the muco- or bioadhesive properties of some hydrogels can be advantageous in immobilizing them at the site of application or in applying them on surfaces that are not horizontal.
The global market for implantable biomaterials in 2013 was worth nearly $75.1 billion. This market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.7% between 2014 and 2019. This will result in $79.1 billion in 2014 and $109.5 billion global market in 2019. The global use of bioplastics was 0.64 million metric tons in 2010 and 0.85 million metric tons in 2011. BCC expects that the use of bioplastics will increase up to 3.7 million metric tons by 2016, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.3%.The Americas bioplastics region reached 0.24 million metric tons in 2010 and 0.30 million metric tons in 2011. It is expected to grow to 1.2 million metric tons by 2016, a CAGR of 32.9%.As one of the largest markets in the world, the U.S. bioplastics segment reached 0.22 million metric tons in 2010 and 0.26 million metric tons in 2011. It is expected to grow to 1.4 million metric tons by 2016, a CAGR of 40.7%.
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This page was last updated on February 22, 2020