Industry News

Novel Gel-like Coatings for Elastomer-based Medical Devices

Published on 2017-07-20. Author : SpecialChem

MIT engineers have designed a gel-like material that can be coated onto standard plastic or rubber devices. It will provide a softer, more slippery exterior that can ease a patient’s discomfort. The coating can even be tailored to check and treat signs of infection.

Bonding Hydrogel to Elastomers

Catheters medical devices
Novel Gel-like Coatings for Elastomer-based Medical Devices

The team describes their method for bonding a layer of hydrogel to common elastomers such as latex, rubber, and silicone. The results are “hydrogel laminates” that are:
  • Soft
  • Stretchable 
  • Slippery
  • Impermeable to viruses and other small molecules

The hydrogel coating can be embedded with compounds to sense, for example, inflammatory molecules. Drugs can also be incorporated into and slowly released from the hydrogel coating, to treat inflammation in the body.

The team was led by Xuanhe Zhao, the Robert N. Noyce Career Development Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT.

They bonded layers of hydrogel onto various elastomer-based medical devices.

They found that the coatings were extremely:
  • Durable, withstanding bending and twisting, without cracking
  • Slippery, exhibiting much less friction than standard uncoated catheters

Hydrogel for Condoms

The group also coated hydrogel onto another widely used elastomer product: condoms.

  • It will enhance the comfort of existing latex condoms by reducing friction, and could help improve their safety
  • The hydrogel could be embedded with drugs to counter a latex allergy

Zhao says:

We’ve demonstrated hydrogel really has the potential to replace common elastomers.

Now we have a method to integrate gels with other materials. We think this has the potential to be applied to a diverse range of medical devices interfacing with the body.

Tough Stretchable Hydrogels


  • Zhao’s group previously developed recipes to make tough, stretchable hydrogels
  • They were made from mixtures composed mostly of water and a bit of polymer
  • They developed a technique to bond hydrogels to elastomers 
  • It was done by first treating surfaces such as rubber and silicone with benzophenone
  • When exposed to ultraviolet light benzophenone creates a strong chemical bond between the elastomer and the hydrogel

The researchers applied these techniques to fabricate a hydrogel laminate. A hydrogel laminate is a layer of elastomer sandwiched between two layers of hydrogel.

Catheters – A Major Focus

The researchers used their previously developed techniques to coat hydrogel onto various elastomer devices. Applications include silicone tubing, a Foley catheter, and a condom.

Parada says:

Our first major focus was catheters, because they are rigid and not very comfortable, and infection of catheters can cause around 50 percent of readmissions to hospitals.

We also thought we could apply this to condoms, because existing latex condoms cause lots of sensitivities and allergies, and if you can put drugs in the gel, you could have better protection.”

Even after sharply bending and folding the coated tubing into a knot, the hydrogel coating remained strongly bonded to the tubing.
It didn't cause any tears. The same was true when the researchers inflated both the coated catheter and the coated condom.

Zhao says:

We have the capability to fabricate large-scale hydrogel structures that can coat medical devices, and the hydrogel won’t agitate the body.

This is a technological platform onto which you can imagine many applications.

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Source: MIT
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