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Redefining Navy Seal

When a penetrating eye injury strikes, there is a need for speed. But what happens when the patient is in the middle of nowhere, with no access to emergency treatment? In such situations, repairing the damage with sutures isn’t ideal: the procedure requires specialist training and risks infection...

Enter poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) – or PNIPAM – a biostable ‘smart’ polymer with thermoresponsive properties (see Figure 1a). The hydrophilic properties of its amide group (–CONH–) mean that PNIPAM is soluble at low temperatures. But when the polymer is heated to 32°C, the hydrophobic (–CH(CH3)2) groups interact, resulting in the formation of a gel-like aggregate as water is released from the structure. Cooling the polymer returns it to a soluble state.

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Ruth Steer

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