Porous biopolymer hydrogels prepared by in situ crystallization

Background Organ failure and tissue loss account for half the medical spending in the United States. In theory, transplantation is the last therapeutic option available to people in the final stage of an organ or tissue failure. The supply of organs or tissues is so limited that for the vast majority of people, transplantation is not an option. At the same time, transplantation outcomes are under renewed scrutiny as insurers try to control healthcare costs.

Exciting research undertaken at The University of Texas at Austin in the field of tissue engineering has created a hydrogel that could be used to fabricate materials for the replacement of diseased or damaged tissues. This new technology is designed to be natural tissues by containing pores that would be better able to guide infiltrating cells, vascularization, and neuronal processes, and thus make the hydrogel function more and more like actual tissue.

Invention Description The invention is a method for creating hydrogels with a highly complex and branched network of pores. An solution is prepared containing an uncrosslinked biopolymer and a molecule capable of crystallization. The solution is cast into a dish and air-dried, yielding an amorphous hydrogel film. A seed crystal of the crystallizable molecule is then touched to the film to allow crystallization within the hydrogel. The hydrogel is rinsed with water to dissolve and remove the crystals. The end product is a biopolymer hydrogel containing a network of pores resembling the crystal network that can be used as materials for tissue engineering devices. The pores resemble the fine, intricate branching patterns found in natural tissues such as microvasculature and neuronal outgrowth. These hydrogels with porous networks can guide the infiltration of cells, neurite outgrowth, and vascularization into biomimetic patterns


Resembles natural tissues Works with biopolymers


The porous network extends throughout the volume of the hydrogel in three dimensions. The pores can be created with very fine and intricate morphologies as are found in biological tissues.

Market Potential/Applications The estimated market for the future of tissue engineered products are worth approximately $5 billion worldwide by 2013. Dr. Ray Scraggs, Ph.D., a leading certified Senior Industry Analyst, believes this market has huge revenues yet to be invested in by pharmaceutical companies and has the potential to grow in excess of $10 billion (M2 Presswire, 12-MAY-04, http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-346048/Stem-Cell-and-Tissue-Engineering.html#abstract). Tissue Engineering and Stem Cell Technology have had the capability to reform the medical market. This technology would be allow companies to develop replacement skin, cartilage, regeneration of bone and other connective structural substitutes." Tissue engineering technology has applications over such a wide range of diseases that the potential for this market will be huge. Undoubtedly, the medical use of tissue engineering will revolutionize medicine, and any company that can successfully develop this technology will be guaranteed substantial financial rewards.

Development Stage Lab/bench prototype

IP Status One U.S. patent application filed

UT Researcher Christine E. Schmidt, Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin Scott Zawko, Chemical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin

Type of Offer: Licensing

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