Flare-Responsive Hydrogel Developed to Treat Arthritis


Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Summary: Bioengineers have developed a hydrogel, a soft, flexible material that can be loaded with arthritis drugs and injected locally into an inflamed joint.


Arthritis flares – the unpredictable and often sudden worsening of arthritis symptoms, can be debilitating. These episodes can make the management of inflammatory arthritis, which includes rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, challenging for patients and physicians. Arthritis represents a huge unmet clinical need. Although new therapeutics have been developed, many have had systemic, toxic effects. Researchers wanted to design a delivery system that could be efficient, deliver drugs locally and release drugs in response to inflammation. Bioengineers from the BWH have developed a hydrogel – a soft, flexible material that can be loaded with arthritis drugs and injected locally into an inflamed joint. Instead of delivering the drug continuously at a steady rate, the hydrogel is designed to respond to increased disease activity during flares, releasing the drug when symptoms worsen. The study findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Hydrogel delivery to treat arthritis

A flare responsive drug delivery system titrates drug levels in response to the level of inflammation. Credit: Kai Slaughter

This newly created flare-responsive hydrogel is made from triglycerol monostearate (TG-18), a compound from the FDA’s list of “generally recognized as safe” compounds. TG-18 is a molecule capable of self-assembling, meaning that it can form a gel-like structure comprising fibers. This structure can be easily injected as a suspension In this study, the TG-18 hydrogel was loaded with triamcinolone acetonide (TA) used here as a model drug, but could potentially be loaded with many other kinds of anti-inflammatory compounds. One of the advantages of the hydrogel is that it offers the promise of treating arthritis specifically in the joints where the disease is flaring, rather than delivering a drug throughout the body.

Rheumatologist, Joerg Ermann said, “Local therapy could be a viable treatment option for patients with only one or a few inflamed joints.”


More Information: Joshi N. et al, “Towards an Arthritis Flare-Responsive Drug Delivery System”, Nature Communications (2018).DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03691-1


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