Hydrogels: Jello-Like Materials Treat Tumors: MNBT?


HOUSTON, Texas (Ivanhoe Newswire) —Hydrogels, or smart gels, look and feel a lot like jello. When the liquid drugs are suspended in the gelatinous hydrogels and injected into tumors, this medicine sticks around long enough to deliver the right amount of fighter cells, or meds, to battle life-threatening tumors.

Jeffrey Hartgerink, a professor of chemistry and bioengineering at Rice University told Ivanhoe, “The example that everybody knows is JELL-O brand gelatin, right? So, that is a hydrogel and effectively what we do is we make really fancy and expensive versions of JELL-O.”

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But these hydrogels are made from a thick, nanofibrous, material that keeps cells and meds in the right place.

“Those nano-fibers make a network that might look like a spider web, or whatnot, and effectively hold the water in place,” Professor Hartgerink illustrated.

Darren Woodside, VP for Research at the Texas Heart Institute elaborated for Ivanhoe, “For instance, if you have melanoma, you could potentially inject one of these hydrogels, that maybe even had some other types of drugs, that could help kill the cancer.”

The gels cause an inflammatory reaction in the body and then dissolve and are replaced by functional tissue.

“And not only decreased the tumor here, but help your immune system affect tumors in different parts of the body,” Woodside explained.

In the case of a heart attack, the gels would keep the good cells in place to heal the damage to the heart muscle.

“You could mix the cells with the hydrogel and hopefully, the cells will stick around a little longer,” Woodside clarified.

Rice University helped develop the hydrogels and partnered with the Texas Heart Institute, which defined the body’s responses to the gels. This approach could save cancer patients from undergoing chemo, which is super-toxic.

“The idea behind immunotherapy is that instead of delivering a toxic drug to the body, you manipulate the body’s own immune system and make it more effective at fighting cancer cells,” Professor Hartgerink stated.

These synthetic gels are said to fine-tune the body’s inflammatory response and the researchers say rather than pumping the body with toxic chemo, this manipulation of the body’s own immune system will make the body more effective at fighting cancer cells, without the side effects.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Donna Parker, Field Producer; Bruce Maniscalo, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4737

BACKGROUND: Cancer is not just one disease; there are many types. It can start in the lungs, the breast, the colon, or even in the blood. Cancers are different in the ways they grow and spread.  It’s the second leading cause of death in the United States. In 2020, there will be an estimated 1.8 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 606,520 cancer deaths in the United States. The peripheral nervous system refers to the parts of the nervous system that are outside the brain and spinal cord. It includes nerves that connect the head, face, eyes, nose, muscles, and ears to the brain. There are more than 100 billion nerve cells that run throughout the body.

(Source: https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21590, https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/peripheral-nerve-disorders/overview-of-the-peripheral-nervous-sys///tem, https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics.html)

HYDROGELS/DELIVERY: Nanofiber Hydrogels are a material that traps a large amount of liquid and keeps it in a fixed place. They look and work much like a spider web and are beneficial for targeted drug delivery and tissue regeneration. For Hydrogel delivery, researchers put it in water and mix it with a nanofiber-forming peptide that resembles Jello. Hydrogels are flexible because of their water content and are non-toxic which makes them applicable to the medical field. Hydrogels use is rapidly expanding because of the many ways to modify the structures to obtain desired functions. They can be designed to respond to a specific stimulus, and they’re biocompatible and biodegradable which makes them good for use in biological and environmental applications.

(Source: Jeffrey Hartgerink, Professor, Chemistry and Bioengineering, Rice University, https://www.intechopen.com/books/emerging-concepts-in-analysis-and-applications-of-hydrogels/an-introduction-to-hydrogels-and-some-recent-applications)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: The nanofiber hydrogel allows for cancer treatment and peripheral nerve regeneration medicines to be delivered. Cancer patients going through chemotherapy have depleted immune systems. Some go through immunotherapy, which for 80 percent of patients has no effect. The hydrogels are loaded up with drugs and medicine and inserted around a tumor to modify the cellular behavior of the immune system. It wakes the cancer up, so to speak, and it can be killed off that way. It’s also beneficial in peripheral nerve regeneration. When a nerve is damaged and dies there’s a disconnect between the nerve and the target.  Doctors make conduits, which is like a flexible straw, loaded with hydrogel that provides a pathway for the nerves to regrow toward their target. Darren Woodside, PhD, says, “In theory, combining the hydrogel with stem cells is much more effective because the cells stay concentrated in the area where the body needs them.”

(Source: Jeffrey Hartgerink, Professor, Chemistry and Bioengineering, Rice University, Darren Woodside, PhD, VP for Research, Texas Heart Institute, https://www.intechopen.com/books/emerging-concepts-in-analysis-and-applications-of-hydrogels/an-introduction-to-hydrogels-and-some-recent-applications)



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If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Jeffrey Hartgerink, Professor of Chemistry and Bioengineering - Darren Woodside, PhD, Vice President for Research

Read the entire Q&A