Hydrogel could dispense pain-killing medicine to joints as they move


January 16, 2014

Lead scientist Xinqiao Jia works with the gel

Lead scientist Xinqiao Jia works with the gel

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People suffering from joint problems such as osteoarthritis tend to take a lot of anti-inflammatory drugs, even though such medications affect their whole body, all of the time. Scientists at the University of Delaware, however, are developing what could be a more effective alternative. It's a hydrogel that can be injected into the joint, and it releases medication only in response to mechanical force – in other words, whenever the joint is used.

In laboratory tests, it was confirmed that when the hyaluronic acid-based hydrogel was compressed, encapsulated drugs that had been mixed into it were discharged into the surrounding environment.

The researchers now hope that if the drug-containing gel were to be injected into the bad knees or hips of arthritis patients (as an example), it would help keep down the inflammation and associated pain as they performed rehabilitative exercises. It wouldn't necessarily be a permanent solution to their problem, but it would allow them to partake more thoroughly in physiotherapy, which hopefully would be a solution.

Animal testing performed at Chicago's Rush University has indicated that the gel is biocompatible – this makes sense, as hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in cartilage.

The research, which is being led by Prof. Xinqiao Jia, was described in a paper recently published in the journal Biomacromolecules. The scientists are now investigating whether the gel could also be used to deliver medication that would help regenerate damaged tissue.

Source: University of Delaware

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

This deserves as much grant money as can be spared from the present-day research on steriods and potions being pushed by Big Pharm. Find what works, and put the stuff where it is needed, not into the whole body and hope a little of it works on the problem!

The Skud

This looks like a great idea which deserves all the help it can get...but how long does the effect of each injection last? If you have to do it every hour then it's no good at all!

(And for you younger folks, don't think that it won't become your problem too. If you're lucky enough to live long enough then you'll end up old enough to get arthritis. And it hurts. A lot. All of the time. Think of the last time you smashed a bone point like elbow or knee into something hard. It hurts like that, but it doesn't go away.)


I do not see any advantage they are still injecting drugs into the body.I think we need a new type of compound that works on pain.Something like the pleasure chemical in the brain.

Ernest Garee
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