Researchers have just discovered an effective and easy-to-use method for bonding biological gels and tissues.
A team led by Ludwik Leibler (1) bringing together researchers from the Soft Matter and Chemistry Laboratory (CNRS/ESPCI ParisTech) and the Physical Chemistry of Polymers and Dispersed Media Laboratory (CNRS/ UPMC/ESPCI ParisTech) obtained very strong adhesion between two gels by spreading a solution containing nanoparticles on their surface. Until now there was no fully satisfactory method for achieving adhesion between two gels or two biological tissues.
Photo: Team of co-signers / From left to right: Alexandre Prevoteau, Dominique Hourdet, Alba Marcellan, Ludwik Leibler and Séverine Rose (Paul Elzière is absent on the photo)
Medical and industrial applications
Published online at Nature on December 11, 2013, this work could pave the way for a wide range of medical and industrial applications.
Gels are materials essentially composed of a liquid, water for example, caught in a molecular network that gives them their solidity. There are many examples of gels in everyday life: the gelatine in desserts, redcurrant jelly, contact lenses or the absorbent part of diapers. Biological tissues such as skin, muscles or organs show strong similarities with gels. Until now, sticking these liquid-filled, soft and slippery materials together using conventional polymer adhesives has been a challenge.
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Ludwik Leibler (1) is known for the invention of completely original materials by combining real industrial interest with deep theoretical thinking. The work he has carried out in collaboration with Alba Marcellan and their colleagues from the Soft Matter and Chemistry Laboratory (CNRS/ESPCI ParisTech) and the Physical Chemistry of Polymers and Dispersed Media Laboratory (CNRS/ UPMC/ESPCI ParisTech), has led to a novel concept: gluing gels by spreading a solution of nanoparticles on their surface.
The principle is as follows: the nanoparticles in the solution bind to the molecular network of the gel, a phenomenon called adsorption, and at the same time the molecular network binds the particles together. The nanoparticles thus establish countless connections between the two gels. The adhesion process takes only a few seconds. This method is carried out without the addition of polymers and does not involve a chemical reaction.
An aqueous solution of silica nanoparticles, a compound that is readily available and widely used in industry, notably as a food additive, makes it possible to bond all types of gels even when they do not have the same consistency or mechanical properties. In addition to the speed and simplicity of implementation, the adhesion provided by the nanoparticles is strong, the joint often resisting deformation better than the gel itself. In addition, the adhesion offers very good resistance to immersion in water. It is also self-repairable: for example, two loose pieces can be glued together and repositioned without the addition of nanoparticles. Silica nanoparticles are not the only ones with these properties. Researchers have achieved similar results using cellulose nanocrystals and carbon nanotubes.
Finally, to illustrate the potential of this discovery in the field of biological tissues, the researchers effectively re-glued two pieces of calf liver previously cut with a scalpel using a solution of silica nanoparticles.
This discovery opens up new fields of research and applications, particularly in the medical and veterinary fields, and especially in surgery and regenerative medicine. For example, it is possible to use this method to reattach skin or organs that have undergone an incision or a deep lesion. This method could also be of interest to the food and cosmetics industries and to manufacturers of prostheses and medical devices (dressings, patches, hydrogels, etc.).
Photos © MMC-CNRS/ESPCI Laboratory - Mathieu Kauffmann
Use of an aqueous solution of silica nanoparticles for bonding two pieces of gel.
A photo report was produced by the CNRS photo library at the Soft Matter and Chemistry Laboratory.
(1) Ludwik Leibler is winner of the CNRS 2013 Innovation Medal. Together with his colleagues in the Soft Matter and Chemistry laboratory, he has developed supramolecular rubbers capable of self-healing by simple contact after a complete tear. He also invented a new class of organic materials, called vitrimers. Repairable and recyclable, they are, like glass, reversibly and freely processable, while remaining insoluble, light and resistant.
- Nanoparticle solutions as adhesives for gels and biological tissues / Séverine Rose, Alexandre Prevoteau, Paul Elzière, Dominique Hourdet, Alba Marcellan & Ludwik Leibler
Nature, publication 11 December 2013.
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(Source: CNRS 11 December 2013)