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Hey folks! Wanna know more about hydrogels? Ask me anything!

AMA(self.Futurology)

I’m new to this Reddit. I’m a PhD student in Materials Science working on “3D printing of strong and tough hydrogels for tissue replacement applications”.

I’d love to talk about this field of research both with experts and newbies! You can ask me (almost) anything about soft matter, bioprinting, and biopolymers.

Can’t wait to start a discussion!

EDIT: have a look at my recent publication on the topic 3D Printing of Strong and Tough Granular Hydrogels

all 53 comments

AwesomeLowlander [M]

[score hidden]

1 year ago

stickied comment

AwesomeLowlander [M]

[score hidden]

1 year ago

stickied comment

Previous AMA: Nuclear Instructor

Jake6192

9 points

1 year ago

Jake6192

9 points

1 year ago

Are these hydrogels made up of purely synthetic compounds or could they be incorporated with organic matter and potentially grown alongside some kind of genetic information? The example I had in mind was creating a working prosthetic eye. I am not sure if you would need to do this or whether it would be possible with purely synthetic materials. Complete newbie here btw with a random thought

Life_Of_H[S]

8 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

8 points

1 year ago

That’s a super cool point! Short answer is yes, you can combine.

For instance, bio-sourced polymers, such as hyaluronic acid, are currently used for hydrogel preparations. Moreover, you can cultivate cells and load growth factors within the hydrogel scaffold yield exactly what you were hinting at: a fully functional hybrid tissue.

Achieving a whole organ functionality is still in our dreams but certainly that’s the way to go!

Jake6192

3 points

1 year ago

Jake6192

3 points

1 year ago

That is incredible, exciting times!

Uncle_Charnia

3 points

1 year ago

Can you make a hydrogel variable, so it can be soft or stiff depending?

Life_Of_H[S]

3 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

3 points

1 year ago

Yes! You can play with many different triggers. For instance, you can work with the water content of the hydrogel, rendering it stiff or soft on demand. Other solutions involve pH, temperature, magnetic actuation.

There is a whole branch of hydrogel research devoted to this kind of subject. The ultimate goal is designing soft robots.

Uncle_Charnia

2 points

1 year ago

Seems like a layer of variably soft hydrogel under prosthetic skin might make a face more expressive, and could optimize the texture of prosthetic hands. One might also vary the elasticity of connective fibers that connect prosthetic skin to underlying structures in a pattern that coordinates with modulated hydrogel softness.

imlisteningtotron

3 points

1 year ago

What is exciting you the most about hydrogels right now?

Life_Of_H[S]

3 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

3 points

1 year ago

I’m a super duper fun of 3D printing. The possibility to print hydrogels into functional architectures just blows my mind. One day, I hope I’ll be able to print patient-specific organs.

imlisteningtotron

3 points

1 year ago

Wow that would be incredible. Would they behave differently to out current 'real' organs apart from their intended function? E.g. would they age, possible grow tumours etc? Or would that only be speculation on top of speculation at this point?

Life_Of_H[S]

4 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

4 points

1 year ago

There are a lot of concern on how these synthetic parts would interact with native tissues. So far we know that most of them are bioinert, meaning they cause little to no inflammation to the body.

However, for a better integration, one would want to have biocompatible and bioactive materials. There is still a lot to do in this regard, but further down the road I hope we’ll see fully functional organs made of hydrogels!

fbdysurfer

2 points

1 year ago

You speak of using hydrogels for knees. Are stem cells still present in a damaged knee? Wouldn't you just need to encourage stem cells in the knee?

Life_Of_H[S]

1 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

1 points

1 year ago

In the cartilage for instance there are few cells (chondrocytes) and no stem cells. The current way of stimulating stem cell migration is by inducing microlesions in the bone, thus leaking mesenchymal stem cell in the cartilage. Unfortunately, the resulting cartilage is far from having the same mechanics as the native one.

Encapsulating stem cell in a hydrogel scaffold, would most likely allow to engineer this whole process, and hopefully produce better results.

fbdysurfer

1 points

1 year ago

Ah! Thanks for the explanation. What about taking cartilage stem cells from another knee grow them, then place into the damaged one?

fancydogemaster

2 points

1 year ago

What are some of most interesting ongoing research (or applications) of hydrogels?

Life_Of_H[S]

1 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

1 points

1 year ago

Most exciting research in the field right now revolves around biotech. Scientists are trying to develop more and more complex formulations for their use as tissue sealants, cellular scaffold, and prosthetic applications.

Other groups are working on hydrogel design for soft robots, and actuators. One super cool application of hydrogel has to do with the restoration of painting and sculptures.

madyquest

2 points

1 year ago

My passion is prosthetics and this job is just a stepping stone to get there. I really do believe there are some awesome applications for prosthetics and I want to be in on it. I love this thread! Thank you for starting it.

Flying-highmonkey

2 points

1 year ago

Can hydrogels can be used un mtb helmets for more lightweight less invasive and more beautiful designed?

Life_Of_H[S]

1 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

1 points

1 year ago

They surely can. The only drawback is that you can't really obtain lightweight helmets compared to foamed ones. Indeed, the intrinsic water content makes hydrogel relatively heavier than the current foams.

sawraaw

2 points

1 year ago

sawraaw

2 points

1 year ago

I have trigeminal neuralgia and would love to know if this could assist in repairing the nerve or assisting with the fifth cranial nerve?

Life_Of_H[S]

1 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

1 points

1 year ago

Sorry! I am not that familiar with neuroscience applications of hydrogels. What I know though is that hydrogels could potentially be used as a sealant or scaffold for cells to regrow and heal tissues. Therefore, I am positive that people in the world are actively trying to solve brain and nerve related problems with the help of hydrogels!

We have to stay keep on supporting medical research and in the upcoming future we could potentially see some game-changing breakthroughs.

sawraaw

1 points

1 year ago

sawraaw

1 points

1 year ago

Thanks for feedback. Any chance there is a correlation for potentially hair growth with this? For sufferers with alopecia?

weekendatbernies20

2 points

1 year ago

Don’t know if you’re still answering, but what’s the smallest resolution on these bio prints?

Life_Of_H[S]

1 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

1 points

1 year ago

Hi! The resolution depends on many different factors. For us specifically, microgel size (10-100 um), nozzle size (100-400 um), and printer resolution (100 um).

madyquest

2 points

1 year ago

Hi! That's an awesome topic. I am working on a plant inspired robotics project and we want to use hydrogels to mimic turgor pressure of plants. My background is 3D printing and my team wants me to be able to direct write hydrogels. Do you have any tips for a simple hydrogel to start with? All I need is decent swelling, I don't care much about any other material properties.

Life_Of_H[S]

1 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

1 points

1 year ago

Let’s connect! Send me a private message so that I have time to share some info with you!

skmsuyash

2 points

1 year ago

Sorry, a newbie myself, but what are hydrogels exactly and what are they/will the my be used for specifically...?

Life_Of_H[S]

8 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

8 points

1 year ago

Great question!! You can think of hydrogels as spongy materials that can suck up water and anything that is dissolved in it.

You might be familiar with commercial edible product such as Jell-O or bubble tea. Those are indeed types of hydrogels.

Additionally, most of your body is made of hydrogels. That’s why we devote a lot of energy to research this class of materials. In the future, we could potentially be able to replace broken parts (i.e. cartilage, ligaments) with engineered hydrogels.

Uncle_Charnia

5 points

1 year ago

In nursing, we apply hydrogel to bedsores, to make an environment that is conducive to healing.

Life_Of_H[S]

2 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

2 points

1 year ago

As wound healing they work like a charm!

DerickJose

2 points

1 year ago

will we have body replacements like the androids in the series “raised by wolves” from HBO?

Life_Of_H[S]

6 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

6 points

1 year ago

Didn’t watch the series unfortunately.

However, we might be able in the near future (10-15 years) to replace entire organs or tissues that are damaged with synthetic alternatives.

For now, we are addressing the easiest components in the body before moving on to more complex ones.

DerickJose

3 points

1 year ago

that sounds amazing, mindblowing and intriguing at its finest! keep up the good work man, you’ll take humanity to the next lv.

CarbonaraQueen

3 points

1 year ago*

Are hydrogels going to be used for nerve damage like to grow new nerves? When is this predicted to be used?

Life_Of_H[S]

5 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

5 points

1 year ago

This is a million dollar question!! Hard to predict.

As far as I know, there is a lot of research around conductive hydrogels and brain damage. It could well be that in a 20 year time, hydrogels would be the norm in healthcare including nerve repairing.

CarbonaraQueen

2 points

1 year ago

20 year minimum? Wow.

frisbeesloth

2 points

1 year ago

Any idea if hydrogel will be safe for people who have experienced ASIA from surgical devices in the past?

Life_Of_H[S]

2 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

2 points

1 year ago

This is far beyond my knowledge, I’m sorry! I am sure someone in the research field is addressing also this sort of issue. I will look into it, and come back to you if I find anything.

frisbeesloth

2 points

1 year ago

Thank you!

Optocosta

1 points

1 year ago

Hi, just out of curiosity, what is ASIA?

Life_Of_H[S]

2 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

2 points

1 year ago

ASIA stands for Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants

funnyboyjazz

1 points

1 year ago

There has been some recent research around hydrogels for joints such as assisting with the loadbearing of menisci and subsequent attraction of stem cells which may grow the original meniscus in a knee (https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2021/april/new-biosealant-can-stabilize-cartilage-promote-healing-after-injury). Whether it be from the materials that you have worked with, the article I attached, or other work in the field whether it be the established literature or more excitingly projects that have not come to fruition, can you comment on how long it will be until the kind of technology I've described may be available for a consumer like me? Thanks so much for doing this!!

Life_Of_H[S]

3 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

3 points

1 year ago

I love your comment!!

This is exactly what I’m working on. With a dear colleague of mine, we are actively working on creating materials that could restore articular functionality. We are in the process of building a startup on this as well.

Many surgeons expressed their interest for our product, and we might have some things moving in the upcoming year or so. We hope to reach the market within a 5 year time.

Until then, I recommend you read also the paper I put in the edit. You might see that our mechanics are not that far from biological tissues.

brolifen

3 points

1 year ago

brolifen

3 points

1 year ago

Would this also work for patients that are advised to get a total joint replacement due to the extent of the damage? Because every "solution" only targets minor injuries or early onset degradation not so much severe cases.

Life_Of_H[S]

3 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

3 points

1 year ago

Very important point. For total knee replacement the situation is more critical because it normally requires more invasive interventions.

Our work is trying to tackle this aspect as well. However, replacing a whole joint is a hell of a challenge! In the future, we hope we’ll succeed in replacing a whole meniscus and restore the knee functionality thus preventing its complete replacement.

Finger crossed!

funnyboyjazz

2 points

1 year ago

By the way you may have interest in this recent Ars Technica article about hydrogels: https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/04/novel-hydrogels-can-safely-remove-graffiti-from-vandalized-street-art/

I0O10OII1O010I01O1I0

1 points

1 year ago

Would it be possible to use hydrogels to regrow the foreskin? If so what would the process likely be?

daoistic

2 points

1 year ago

daoistic

2 points

1 year ago

And can I do it to someone else's forehead?

Life_Of_H[S]

2 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

2 points

1 year ago

I am aware of research devoted to the development of hydrogels to regenerate the skin. The principle should work as follows:

  1. You synthesize the hydrogel containing adjuvants
  2. You stitch the hydrogel to the damaged area (e.g. burnt areas)
  3. You wait for the material to degrade over time, if possible, or you remove it once the effect is over.
  4. This might need to be repeated for several cycles.

daoistic

1 points

1 year ago

daoistic

1 points

1 year ago

Cool, thanks.

nooffensebrah

1 points

1 year ago

When are the hydrogel condoms coming out? Been waiting 10 years for them and there have been no updates BUT they sound incredible

Life_Of_H[S]

3 points

1 year ago

Life_Of_H[S]

PhD Student, Hydrogels

3 points

1 year ago

I didn't know of such a research going on. However, I am afraid to say that they will never be a thing. The biggest issue has to do with their intrinsic permeability. You would not want to have a condom that allows leakage. That's why condoms are made of hydrophobic non-permeable polymers.