A research team has demonstrated a therapeutic material that could one day promote better tissue regeneration following a wound or a stroke. The injectable gel-like material, which is called a hydrogel, helps this repair process by forming a scaffold inside the wound that acts as like an artificial extracellular matrix, and the new tissue grows around that.

A fluorescence-enhanced microscope image showing healthy-looking blood vessel growth following stroke, in a mouse.
(Credit: UCLA)

Using an injectable gel isn’t new, but previous gel scaffolds resulted in weak blood vessels in the newly formed tissue. The new findings show that when the scaffold contains a specific integrin-binding molecule, the new blood vessels that are formed are stronger.

They tested two types of scaffolds with different integrin-binding molecules. Both scaffolds also contained the VEGF protein. They found that one of the scaffolds — which bound with the integrin known as α3/α5β1 — worked really well. It directed a higher quality of repair and of regeneration of blood vessels. In addition, they found that the α3/α5β1 binding scaffolds also guided the shape of the blood vessel, a process called morphogenic signaling.