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New hydrogel developed to combat rheumatoid arthritis

Published on 25 October 2017
New hydrogel developed to combat rheumatoid arthritis

A new gel-based material has been developed that could help to treat rheumatoid arthritis through a number of modes of action.

Researchers from South Korea's Institute for Basic Science have created the gel to detect nitric oxide, a core mechanism that allows the substance to be used to absorb additional fluid from swollen joints, or to release medication to affected areas.

How the gel works
A report published in the journal Advanced Materials has shown how the gel is able to respond to the overproduction of nitric oxide, which often occurs when immune cells become overactive in inflamed joints.

Research leader Kim Won Jong said: "Nitric oxide is like a double-edged sword. It regulates inflammation and protects our body by killing external pathogens; however, when in excess, it is toxic and may cause rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancer."

The new polymeric acrylamide hydrogel is non-toxic, can contain a large amount of water and uses cross-linking agents to create a net between molecules that can trap drug molecules inside. When nitric acid is detected, the gel changes structure, releasing the contained medication and absorbing liquid out of the joints.

Potential further developments
Although this is a preliminary study, the gel has already demonstrated considerable therapeutic potential, which the researchers hope to develop further with future research efforts.

The team is currently testing a nano-sized hydrogel in mice with rheumatoid arthritis, while it is believed that the gel could also be adapted for other diseases characterised by an overexpression of nitric oxide, or even as a means of detecting pollutants in the air.

Arthritis Research UK's view
Devi Sagar, research liaison manager at Arthritis Research UK, said: "Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that affects more than 400,000 people in the UK. The condition can limit a person's ability to live their life to the full and, while there are treatments available that have transformed people’s lives, they do not work for everyone.

"Although this is a preliminary study, this new technology may have the potential to be developed into an effective treatment for this condition. We welcome having as many options available as possible, so that people with arthritis have access to a treatment that works best for them."

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