Repairing or replacing damaged human tissues has been the ambitious goal of regenerative medicine for over 25years.
One promising approach is the use of hydrated three-dimensional scaffolds, known as hydrogels, which have had good results repairing tissues in pre-clinical trials.
Benefiting from breakthrough advances in the field of biology, and more particularly regarding cell/matrix interactions, these hydrogels are now designed to recapitulate some of the fundamental cues of native environments to drive the local tissue regeneration. We highlight the key parameters that are required for the development of smart and biomimetic hydrogels. We also review the wide variety of polymers, crosslinking methods, and manufacturing processes that have been developed over the years.
Of particular interest is the emergence of supramolecular chemistries, allowing for the development of highly functional and reversible biohydrogels. Moreover, advances in computer assisted design and three-dimensional printing have revolutionized the production of macroporous hydrogels and allowed for more complex designs than ever before with the opportunity to develop fully reconstituted organs.
Today, the field of biohydrogels for regenerative medicine is a prolific area of research with applications for most bodily tissues. On top of these applications, injectable hydrogels and macroporous hydrogels (foams) were found to be the most successful. While commonly associated with cells or biologics as drug delivery systems to increase therapeutic outcomes, they are steadily being used in the emerging fields of organs-on-chip and hydrogel-assisted cell therapy. To highlight these advances, we review some of the recent developments that have been achieved for the regeneration of tissues, focusing on the articular cartilage, bone, cardiac, and neural tissues. These biohydrogels are associated with improved cartilage and bone defects regeneration, reduced left ventricular dilation upon myocardial infarction and display promising results repairing neural lesions. Combining the benefits from each of these areas reviewed above, we envision that an injectable biohydrogel foam loaded with either stem cells or their secretome is the most promising hydrogel solution to trigger tissue regeneration.
A paradigm shift is occurring where the combined efforts of fundamental and applied sciences head toward the development of hydrogels restoring tissue functions, serving as drug screening platforms or recreating complex organs.