Bio-synthetic material could replace soft tissue


August 3, 2011

The injectable biomedical material PEG-HA has been developed to permanently replace soft tissue

The injectable biomedical material PEG-HA has been developed to permanently replace soft tissue

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Soldiers whose faces have been marred by explosions could be among the recipients of a new biomedical material designed to permanently replace soft tissue. Developed at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, PEG-HA is a composite consisting of synthetic and biological materials. Lab tests have indicated that it doesn't break down like pure biologicals, or get rejected like some synthetics.

PEG-HA is made from polyethylene glycol (PEG), a synthetic molecule used as a surgical glue, and hyaluronic acid (HA), a natural component in young peoples' skin, that gives it elasticity. Polyethylene glycol is also known for not causing severe immune reactions.

The substance is injected under the skin in a liquid state, and is then "set" like gelatin, by shining a light on the area - the energy from the light causes the PEG molecules to bond, trapping the HA molecules between them.

In the course of developing the material, researchers mixed up different concentrations of PEG and HA, and injected them under the back skin of rats. These injections were set using a green LED light, and then assessed after 47 and 110-day periods. While the HA-only injections deteriorated over time, those with higher amounts of added PEG stayed in place and maintained their form.

Approximately five drops of PEG-HA and straight HA were also injected under the belly skin of three human volunteers who were already undergoing tummy tucks. After 12 weeks, the PEG-HA implants were still intact. The volunteers did, however, report sensations of heat and pain during the setting process, and the implants did produce moderate inflammation in the surrounding areas - a response also noted in the rats.

While the Johns Hopkins researchers state that PEG-HA is not yet ready for widespread clinical use, they hope that it may eventually be of help to people who have been disfigured.

"Many of the skin fillers available on the market consisting of HA-like materials used for face lifts are only temporarily effective, and are limited in their ability to resculpt entire areas of the face," said Professor Jennifer Elisseeff. "Our hope is to develop a more effective product for people, like our war veterans, who need extensive facial reconstruction."

The research was recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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

I wonder why all this good technologies are always directed to such evil cause, such as army and war?

Kirill Belousov

Domo Arigoto Mr. Roboto.


Kirill it is about fixing them so wars can be more acceptable and well of course the holy $ to keep the war industry working ;) Bill

Bill Bennett

This is hope for mankind.... when we can see technology put to good use!

Leong Hee Chan

soft tissue aye? hmmm i wonder how long before they\'re using it in breast implants...

John McMullen
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