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ANU Co-Develops Novel Hydrogel Technology

Image Credits: ANU, Press Release

Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU), in collaboration with The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, have developed a new type of hydrogel that could radically transform how we treat Parkinson’s disease.

The gel also offers hope for patients who have suffered from other neurological conditions such as strokes. The new material is made from natural amino acids – the building blocks of proteins – and acts as a gateway to facilitate the safe transfer of stem cells into the brain and restore damaged tissue by releasing a growth-enabling protein called GDNF.

By putting the stem cells into a gel, they are exposed to less stress when injected into the brain and are more gently and successfully integrated.

Professor David Nisbet, from the ANU John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR), stated that when the energy to the hydrogel is shaken or applied, the substance turns into a liquid which allows the researchers to inject it into the brain through a very small capillary using a needle. Once inside the brain, the gel returns to its solid form and provides support for the stem cells to replace lost dopamine neurons.

Professor Clare Parish, Head of the Stem Cell and Neural Development Laboratory at The Florey Institute, said that through the use of the hydrogel technique the team demonstrated increased survival of the grafted dopamine neurons and restored movement in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease.

While dopamine-related drugs are a readily used treatment for people living with Parkinson’s disease, many have undesirable side effects that are exacerbated with time. The stem cell transplant delivered in this hydrogel on the other hand avoids many of these side effects and could provide a one-off intervention that can sustain dopamine levels for decades to come.

The hydrogel has the potential to also treat patients who have suffered a stroke and could even be used to treat damaged knees or shoulders, following successful animal trials. When the gel technology with the stem cells was introduced, the team saw a huge improvement in the animals’ coordinated paw movement and overall motor function recovery.

The hydrogel technology is cost-effective and easy to manufacture on a mass scale, and it’s hoped the treatment could soon be made available in hospitals, but it must first undergo clinical trials.

“We must do our due diligence and ensure we check all the right boxes regarding safety, efficacy and regulatory approval before we can take this technology into the clinic, but we hope it can be available for use in the not-too-distant future,” Professor Parish said. The research has been published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Recent research found that the Hydrogel Market size was valued at US$ 10.87 billion in 2016 and is projected to reach US$ 15.33 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 6.04% from 2017 to 2022. The base year considered for the study is 2016 and the forecast period is from 2017 to 2022.

Other research shows that the market was negatively impacted by COVID-19 in 2020. The pandemic has resulted in a sharp fall in the demand for various end-user industries. Additionally, the lockdown imposed across the world in response to the pandemic has resulted in plant shutdowns and labour shortages. However, the demand for hydrogel has increased for the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2, thereby has stimulated the demand for the market.

  • Over the short term, the increasing application of hydrogel from the health care industry is expected to drive the market’s growth.
  • However, the high production cost is expected to hinder the growth of the market studied.
  • Asia-Pacific region dominated the market with the highest share and is expected to dominate during the forecast period (2021-2026).
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