Glycosaminoglycans such as Hyaluronic Acid and Heparosan, play an increasing role as promising biomaterials for innovative medical applications. A few leading examples are the development of scaffolds for regenerative medicine, use in implantology as a shield for surgical sites and a wound healing promoter and research on targeted therapies for cancer treatment. It is also used for the coating of medical devices and surgical adhesion prevention in gastro-enterology.
REGENERATIVE AND REPARATIVE MEDICINE
Three-dimensional (3D) cell culture systems are becoming increasingly popular in regenerative medicine and medical research (9). They are designed to mimic the natural extra-cellular matrix and physically guide tissue growth in 3 dimensions.
Hyaluronic Acid and Hyaluronic Acid derivatives can be used for the design of scaffolds for 3D cell cultures. In-vitro, biomimetic 3D cell cultures are used as efficient models for medical research, including research on the effect of anticancer drugs on cancer cells. In-vivo, 3D scaffolds are promising for the regeneration of the living tissues such as bone tissues (click here to learn about the common research structure GELMECS). Hyaluronic Acid can also be used for the formulation of printable hydrogel inks.
With biological and rheological properties close to those of Hyaluronic Acid, and specific characteristics of its own, Heparosan is a good candidate for similar applications.
Regenerative medicine is also about stimulating the body's own repair mechanisms to functionally heal previously irreparable tissues or organs. In dermatology, HTL‘s Hyaluronic Acid enables wound healing, enhancement of the healing process and the treatment of skin diseases (10).
Endogenous Hyaluronic Acid is known for sustaining wound healing and re-epithelialization processes. This is why Hyaluronic Acid is used in topical formulations such as wound dressings, films or hydrogels, for the treatment of skin irritations and wounds including abrasions, post-surgical incisions, metabolic and vascular ulcers and burns. Hyaluronic Acid can also be used in dermal injections for scar reduction.
Hyaluronic Acid is also investigated as a topical drug delivery system or as a topical treatment for skin diseases. The wound healing properties of Hyaluronic Acid and Hyaluronic Acid derivatives are also being explored in other medical fields such as ophthalmology, otolaryngology, rhinology and odontology.
Heparosan, a biopolymer very close to Hyaluronic Acid in terms of structure and properties, is being investigated for its potential topical anti-inflammatory effect on skin disorders such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
Implants and prosthetics
Safe development in the field of medical implants and prosthetics relies especially on reducing the risks of infection and rejection.
The excellent biocompatibility of Hyaluronic Acid, as well as its positive effects on wound and bone healing, can be leveraged in implantology and prosthetics. Hyaluronic Acid gels have been successfully used to enhance bone repair and promote bone integration. They are also increasingly used in oral surgery as a biological barrier to shield the surgical site and prevent bacterial contamination. Thanks to its biocompatibility and resorbability, Hyaluronic Acid is a safe and efficient alternative to more conventional materials that have not been entirely satisfactory.
Generally speaking, the development of glycosaminoglycan-based biomaterials supports the acceleration of innovation in the field of medical implants and prosthetics. Heparosan, a biopolymer very close to Hyaluronic Acid in terms of structure and properties, could also be used for similar applications.
Following surgery, postoperative tissue adhesions frequently occur as a consequence of surgical trauma. Depending on location and severity, adhesions can result in various complications, such as chronic pain, reduced mobility, bowel and intestinal obstructions and infertility.
Applying adhesion barriers during surgery may help to prevent the formation of adhesions (11). Hyaluronic Acid can be used in the composition of bioresorbable membranes, today mostly in gastro-intestinal surgery, with positive effects on preventing postoperative adhesion and their clinical implications.
Targeted therapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs and works by targeting the cancer’s specific genes, proteins or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Hyaluronic acid ligands of the CD44 receptor, which is overexpressed in many tumor cells, and is therefore a potential target in cancer therapy (12). Hyaluronic acid and its derivatives are good candidates for both anticancer drugs carrying and targeting, as they have shown promising results in the composition of anti-tumoral conjugates and drug delivery systems. The development of pro-drugs, surface-modified nanoparticles, microparticles, liposomes, hydrogels and other drug carriers using hyaluronic acid is one avenue worth exploring and is being extensively investigated.
Heparosan is also being investigated in drug carriers for targeted cancer therapy when used for liposome coating. Heparosan-based conjugates could be used to enhance the therapeutic properties of pharmaceuticals by increasing product half-life, reducing immunogenicity, and increasing stability.