Scientists have created a new experimental gel that can match the strength and durability of knee cartilage. The material may look like a distant cousin of Jell-O—which it is—but it’s incredibly strong.
It’s 60% water, but a single quarter-sized disc can bear the weight of a 100-pound kettlebell without tearing or losing its shape. That combination of soft-yet-strong has been hard to reproduce in the lab.
The developers of the new hydrogel—materials made of water-absorbing polymers—say it’s the first that’s capable of withstanding tugging and heavy loads as well as human cartilage, without wearing out over time.
The research could one day offer people with knee troubles a replacement for damaged cartilage, and an alternative to the 600,000 knee replacement surgeries performed in the US each year.