A nanofibre ‘healing layer’ that can increase the self-healing response of a hydrogel (a stretchy polymer biomaterial) is demonstrated in a paper published in Scientific Reports this week. By comparing the recovery of the hydrogel ‘Gel-1’ with and without the healing layer, the authors suggest that the presence of the healing layer can substantially reduce the healing time.
Su Chen and colleagues created a bilayer film of nanofibres infused with redox agents to mimic the vascularisation and nutrient delivery of living tissue. When cut into pieces and then reassembled, the Gel-1 pieces can merge back together without external intervention. To investigate the effectiveness of the healing layer, the authors cut two Gel-1 rods into sections and reassembled them, either with or without the healing layer in between each cut. They found that the gel restored more quickly when associated with the gel with the healing layer. The healing layer is thought to accelerate healing by facilitating molecular diffusion across the cut, increasing and providing redox agents that boost bonding.
The authors propose that the introduction of a self-healing layer could help to accelerate the healing process of other hydrogels, including those with biomedical applications such as regenerative medicine.