‘Off the Charts’ Hydrogel Outperforms Cartilage and May Be in Human Knees Next Year:
The new material pictured here is a natural knee cartilage replicant that may be available as soon as early 2023. Courtesy of Benjamin Wiley, Duke University.
A long-awaited update to a 2020 medical breakthrough could have a natural knee cartilage replicant on deck for replacement surgeries by 2023. For those who want to avoid replacing the entire knee joint, there may soon be another option that could help patients get back on their feet fast, pain-free, and stay that way. GNN reported in 2020 on Duke University’s development of a water-based gel designed to replace worn-out cartilage in knee joints based on the principles of biodesign found in our given cartilage. To make this material, the Duke team took thin sheets of cellulose fibers and infused them with a polymer called polyvinyl alcohol, a viscous goo consisting of stringy chains of repeating molecules, to form a gel. The new material can bear 100 pounds of weight without tearing or losing shape and the polymer chains within allow it to be flexible and have the ability to return to its original state when stretched. In a more recent study to improve the material, the crystal content within it was increased with the application of heat during the creation process. In these trials, the researchers were able to increase the material’s capacity for stress by double for squeezing force and five times larger for pulling forces.