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Composite Gels and Methods of their Use in Tissue Repair, Drug Delivery, and as Implants

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The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) seeks research and development partners or licensees for novel composite hydrogels that can be used in tissue repair and other applications. Single gel networks used in tissue engineering and tissue repair applications generally become softer and more flaccid as they swell. The gels described in this technology, however, which comprise a swellable crosslinked polymer hydrogel dispersed in a crosslinked polymer matrix, mimic critical material properties of tissue extracellular matrix (ECM), for instance, becoming stiffer and tougher upon swelling.
NIH Reference Number
Product Type
  • Gel, Tissue, Composite, Tissue Repair, Hydrogels, Implants, Cartilage, Drug Delivery, sealants, Polymer, Matrix, Basser, Horkay
Collaboration Opportunity
This invention is available for licensing and co-development.
Description of Technology

Gel materials, particularly hydrogels, typically lose their mechanical strength and stiffness as they swell. This property  limits their use in both biological (e.g., cartilage and ECM repair) and non-biological (e.g., sealant) applications. Innovative materials in both medical and non-medical application areas are sorely needed.

Recent innovations in this space, from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), include self-reinforcing composite hydrogels. These composite materials comprise novel combinations of solvents, swellable crosslinked polymer particles, and crosslinked polymer networks or matrices, which confine them. Exemplary solvents include water and organic solvents, silicone fluids and oils and others known in the art. Exemplary swellable crosslinked microgel polymer particles could comprise hyaluronic acid (HA) or other proteoglycans, polyethylene glycol, dextran particles, a poly(acrylic acid), a poly(methacrylic acid), polystyrene sulfonate, polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), polyacrylamide, or combinations thereof. Exemplary confining polymer networks or matrices in which these microgel polymer particles are incorporated can include polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and its copolymers (e.g., polyvinyl alcohol-polyvinyl acetate copolymer, polyvinyl alcohol – polyvinyl acetal copolymer, polyvinyl alcohol – polyvinyl butyral copolymer) and other matrices or networks such as cellulose derivatives (e.g., methyl cellulose, hydroxyethyl cellulose, hydroxypropyl cellulose). Tests of the innovative gels developed by NICHD scientists demonstrate that these gels have properties similar to, e.g., human cartilage – including load-bearing ability and demonstrating high self-reinforcement. The special properties of these gels also render them suitable for drug release to the intestines and other organs.

Researchers at NICHD welcome a wide variety of collaborative and licensing relationships. Possibilities include a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA). The NICHD and NCI technology transfer center welcome non-exclusive or exclusive license agreements. They are eager to transfer rights in these technologies   to responsible commercial partners who will diligently move therapeutics and other applications towards commercialization.

Potential Commercial Applications
  • Cartilage repair Intervertebral disc repair
  • Drug delivery vehicle
  • Breast implants and tissue expanders
  • Commercial or industrial sealants
  • Underwater (naval) or commercial sealant technology


Competitive Advantages
  • Highly self-reinforcing as compared to traditional gel materials Wide variety of potential clinical and industrial applications
  • Fracture resistant, like rip-stop nylon



Peter Joel Basser Ph.D. (NICHD), Ferenc Horkay Ph.D (NICHD)

Development Stage

Horkay F, et al. Composite Hydrogel Model of Cartilage Predicts Its Load-Bearing Ability. [PMID: 32415132]

Patent Status
  • U.S. Patent Filed: U.S. Patent Application Number 16/783,494, Filed 06 Feb 2020
Therapeutic Area
Wednesday, December 1, 2021