Advances in hydrogels applied to degenerative diseases
Hydrogels are currently applied in the treatment of numerous degenerative diseases because of their three dimensional (3D) nature, high water content and wide range of polymers that can be used for their fabrication. Hydrogels have been investigated and commercialized, for example, as soft contact lens-based ophthalmic drug delivery systems. These novel devices improved the bioavailability of ophthalmic drugs and their residence time. Hydrogels are also being investigated to facilitate and augment targeted delivery of chemotherapeutic agents. This approach minimizes significantly the side effects associated with conventional administration of anti-cancer therapeutics. The application of hydrogels as 3D scaffold has recently gained momentum because they can mimic key features of the extracellular matrix. For this reason, hydrogels are representing a viable alternative to traditional tumor xenograft in cancer biology studies. This review highlights recent advances in the development of hydrogels that are applied in degenerative diseases such as ocular, cancer, spine and cartilage degenerative pathologies.