Hydrogels muscle their way into new territory

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Science  01 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6426, pp. 451-452
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw2242

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Materials that change properties from one state to another in response to a stimulus such as temperature or light are often referred to as “smart,” although “obedient” might be a more accurate term. Biological materials are smart in an entirely different way, in that they undergo a series of localized responses to adapt to a new state that is tailored to meet the demands of their changing environment. Bone and skeletal muscle, for example, build mass and strength only where and when they experience sufficient load. On page 504 of this issue, Matsuda et al. (1) bring a similar level of adaptive response one step closer in a synthetic material. They show that double-network (DN) hydrogels (2), which can be thought of as having two distinct but interpenetrating networks, can heal and even strengthen after repeated mechanical stress.