Medical tubing, catheters, and even condoms could become more flexible and frictionless, thanks to a new hydrogel coating.
Medical device makers have long been intrigued by hydrogels because they are so much like human tissue: robust, yet rich in water. This makes them promising interfaces between the body and devices. Often, it is that interface that causes the most problems with medical devices. Tubing or attachments rubbing against tissue can cause inflammation and pain and introduce bacteria — so much so that more than 90% of patients who are catheterized for long periods of time end up with urinary tract infections.
Hydrogels are soft and smooth, and they can theoretically be embedded with slow-release antibiotics to fight bacteria, says German Parada, a doctoral student in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). But attaching hydrogels to silicon, latex, or other medical-grade materials is no simple...
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