Shape-Memory Sponge Hydrogel for Tissue Engineering Applications (2011-088)

Market Overview:

This hydrogel composite is composed of elastin, glycosaminoglycan and collagen (EGC) that exhibits unique shape-memory sponge characteristics. This EGC hydrogel has broad applications in tissue engineering and biomaterials, specifically regarding its use as a nucleus pulposus (NP) replacement material. Spinal disc degeneration begins within the NP and, if not treated, can lead to detrimental changes to the Intervertebral Disc (IVD) structure; resulting in pain, disability, and socioeconomic consequences. Current treatment options, such as total disc replacement, suffer from drawbacks including adjacent segment degeneration and subsidence. In order to improve this area of the biomedical industry, Clemson University researchers developed the EGC hydrogel that could replace degenerating NP tissue with a mimetic surrogate material. This EGC hydrogel offers a large variety of significant benefits including: extreme resiliency and water absorption capabilities, matches NP compressive stiffness, resistant to accelerated degradation, and moldable to patient NP anatomy. Overall, Clemson’s breakthrough technology represents a resilient and hydrophilic biomaterial with shape-memory sponge characteristics that would offer a true solution to IVD degeneration via tissue replacement and regeneration.


Tissue engineering, IVD degeneration treatment, 3D cell culture products


• Exhibits shape-memory sponge characteristics, resembling native NP by releasing water and  deforming under compression, re-absorbing water and then re-establishing initial dimensions quickly

• EGC hydrogel exhibits hydrophilic and absorbent properties, making it cell-friendly and giving it the ability to be sterilized

• Utilizes PGG crosslinking, resulting in a formation method involving partial enzymatic degradation

Technical Summary

This sponge hydrogel biomaterial is developed via the assembly of purified proteins (soluble elastin and type I collagen) and glycosaminoglycans (chondroitin-6-sulfate and hyaluronic acid). These components are chemically crosslinked together using carbodiimide and pentagalloyl glucose based chemistries, followed by an enzymatic treatment which creates a hydrophilic, formable, and extremely resilient 3-D matrix. The biomaterial can take any shape and form depending on the target application. The resultant biomaterial can be deformed under large loads while concomitantly expelling the water naturally contained within the hydrogel; however once the load is removed, the biomaterial immediately recovers its original shape and re-absorbs its original water content in a similar manner to a sponge. This shape-memory biomaterial can be chemically sterilized and is conducive to use with cells if desired.

Stage of Development

Validated Prototype; In vivo and in vitro testing

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Inventors:                        Dan Simionescu, Jeremy Mercuri

Application Type:           Utility

Patent Numbers:             9,283,301 and 9,005,289

CURF Ref No:                2011-088, 08-036

Patent Information:
Biomedical Sciences
For Information, Contact:
Contact. CURF.
Clemson University Research Foundation
Dan Simionescu
Jeremy Mercuri
Biomaterials - Orthopaedic
Orthopaedics-Biologics/Tissue Engr/Regen Medicine
Regenerative Medicine
Tissue Engineering
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