Researchers at the University of Delaware, Newark, have developed a “smart” hydrogel that can deliver medicine on demand, in response to mechanical force. What’s new about their material, is its ability to release medicine in response to force, a major challenge for people with osteoarthritis, which compromises their ability to perform everyday activities.

The researchers believe the hyaluronic acid-based hydrogels developed at UD can be injected into an injury site, such as a knee or hip joint, and that, as a patient walks or participates in therapeutic exercise, the walking motion will cause accelerated release of the drug, reducing inflammation and pain.

Testing under laboratory conditions has confirmed that as the UD-developed hydrogel is compressed, the encapsulated drugs are discharged into the surrounding environment. Preliminary cell testing confirmed the anti-inflammatory activity of the released drug molecules.

Now the team is collaborating with colleagues at Rush University in Chicago to test the hydrogels in animal models.

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