Current and Future Outlook
A summary of the hydrogels that are used imaging applications for diagnostics and therapeutics presented in this chapter has been shown in Table 7.1. Ultimately, providing a hydrogel network with imaging enhancement using fluorescent probes or any other approach would be beneficial for many areas in medical science. Further, optically stimulated molecules within the hydrogel would be of great benefit to quickly diagnose various diseases. Tissue engineering, in particular, is a significant component of hydrogel network applications as understanding the process between integrating engineered tissue and native tissue is of extreme importance to tissue engineering applications. Currently, there is not much information available about the migration of cells from engineered tissue to native tissue in tissue engineering applications. Hydrogel networks that can image the configuration and migration of engineered cells would be useful for developing engineered tissue that will integrate more readily to native tissue. Musculoskeletal system diseases could also be better understood and detected by hydrogel network imaging. In addition, hydrogels with imaging modularity could be used in additive manufacturing technology to create 3D printed organs and tissues. Self-healing hydrogels with optical capabilities would be able to repair wounds as well as monitor the changes of the degradable biomaterial.
The potential benefits of the use of the hydrogels in imaging applications in diagnostics and therapeutics are promising. In recent years, much research has been done on hydrogels for imaging applications in various biological domains, including drug delivery, chemical and biological signal sensors, tissue engineering, and tumor detection. Renewed interest in this area may provide the necessary breakthrough in enhancing hydrogel networks with more advanced imaging capabilities and. in doing so, moving from benchtop and in vivo studies to functional assessment in clinical trials over the next decade, thus opening great possibilities in the future.
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