As today's Daily Mail reports the breakthrough comes from work by researchers at Oxford University, the John Radcliffe Hospital, and the Georgia Institute of Technology using STFC's ISIS neutron source.
The team, including Jinhyun Hannah Lee and Zamri Radzi from Oxford University's Department of Materials, used ISIS to look at the hydrogel polymer's molecular structure in order to see how the material might be used as part of a simplified surgical treatment.
The treatment involves inserting an anisotropic hydrogel material - similar to that used in contact lenses - under the mucosa of the roof of the mouth.
Once inserted, the hydrogel gradually expands as fluid is absorbed, encouraging skin growth over and around the plate. After sufficient skin has been generated to repair the palatal cleft, the plate is removed and the cleft is repaired using this additional tissue.
The success of the preliminary results of self-inflating anisotropic hydrogel tissue expanders means clinical trials are expected to take place early in 2011.
The study is the first to be carried out using the Offspec instrument at the recently opened second target station at ISIS.
Offspec is the world’s most advanced neutron instrument for studying new surface structures and can be used for a number of applications including biological membranes and patterned materials for data storage media.
Read more about the research in this ISIS release
Oxford University's technology transfer company Oxford University Innovation is looking for commercial partners to help develop the technology, for more details, contact Renate Krelle: firstname.lastname@example.org