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Injectable, 'self-healing' hydrogel may offer simpler form of long-term drug delivery

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On injecting the hydrogel under the skin of mice, the team found it effectively delivered one hydrophobic and one hydrophilic drug over a period of several days.

Not only can the hydrogel offer targeted drug delivery, the researchers say each component of the gel can be modified so each drug can be delivered at different rates, meaning it could be tailored to a patient's individual needs.

The team is currently investigating how the new hydrogel can be used to deliver anti-angiogenesis drugs to treat macular degeneration - an eye disease that affects more than 10 million people in the US.

At present, patients with macular degeneration receive a monthly injection with anti-angiogenesis drugs, which work by reducing the growth of sight-impairing blood vessels. The MIT team believes the new hydrogel could be used to deliver these drugs over several months, which could limit the need for injections.

Because the new hydrogel can deliver growth factors, the researchers say it could also be effective for the repair of damaged heart tissue following a heart attack.

In addition, it could be used to treat cancer patients following the surgical removal of tumors. The team explains that the gel could be laced with a chemical that attracts remaining cancer cells toward it, alongside a chemotherapy drug that destroys the cancer cells, reducing the risk of cancer recurrence.

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