Hy2Care: a promising hydrogel for healthier joints

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24 August 2022

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It's no surprise: aging comes with a few - physical - challenges. Sore bodies, bad knees, joint pain. What might be surprising is that younger people can also experience severe joint pain such as bad knees. For example, due to cartilage defects as a result of increasing active lifestyle. Hy2Care wants to do something about that. They developed an injectable gel that ensures optimal cartilage repair combating painful joints.

A unique gel

Leo Smit, CEO of Hy2Care: "We developed an injectable hydrogel for functional repair of cartilage defects in joints. The hydrogel is based on natural polymers and mimics joint repair; it aims to protect the injured spot and helps natural repair."

Hy2Care® is a 'spin-off company' of the Tech Med Center of the University of Twente. The unique technology of the gel was developed by Professor Marcel Karperien and his team of the Developmental BioEngineering group at the University of Twente. In 2014 Marcel Karperien founded Hy2Care together with Sanne Both.

... developed from own experience When Sanne was 15 years old she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis dissecans (OCD), a very painful cartilage disease. Her own experience motivated her to study medical biology. In 2013 Professor Marcel Karperien asked her to join his group to work on the hydrogel that can solve cartilage problems. Shortly after, Marcel and Sanne co-founded Hy2Care and now they work together on a daily basis to develop the ultimate solution for cartilage repair!  

"We'll keep developing innovative solutions for a better health"

More than just cartilage

Hy2Care wants to provide more innovative solutions with its hydrogel. Kshama Shree Sen, R&D manager at Hy2Care: "Our first product is currently investigated in a clinical trial for cartilage repair in the knee. Our technology allows for other uses. We would like to explore more solutions to treat orthopedic problems that people may have."

Aimed at the social transitions Leo adds: "We are constantly looking to create added value. With all our products, we anticipate creating value along the entire healthcare system." With this innovative gel, Hy2Care actively contributes to one of the most important social transitions for the coming years: health. Kshama explains further: "The patients benefit, as the gel offers an effective treatment with long-lasting effects. The pain does not return after a few years. It helps the orthopedic surgeons, as they can apply the gel easily and quickly. And the healthcare system profits from lower costs as well as a reduced socio-economic burden."

How does the gel work? Leo: "Our hydrogel enables the body to heal itself. The gel is made up of natural polymers and is biocompatible. When injected into the knee defect, the gel forms a resorbable scaffold that degrades over time. The gel is bio-adhesive in nature so it easily attaches itself to the surrounding healthy cartilage. This already prevents the cartilage from further damage. The cartilage cells from surrounding cartilage subsequently  migrate into the gel allowing them to grow and produce new cartilage. The aim is that patients can live again without constant pain. This has a huge impact on people's well-being, both physically and mentally."  

Teamwork makes the dream work!

Are you a passionate entrepreneur and would you like to collaborate on the social transitions like Hy2Care? Kshama: "Our tip is to make sure you have a strong mindset towards your vision and goal. We believe in leveraging our existing skills and developing new ones where needed. Most important? Don't do it alone! Make sure you have a strong team: full of people with different educational backgrounds and professional experiences. The team can support each other and build on each other's strengths. Teamwork makes the dream work!"  

"People can live their lives again. Without pain."

What is arthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis - or joint disease - and the leading cause of disability in adults. Patients with OA have rated pain and functional impairment. Leo: "The symptoms have a huge impact on daily live activities, as for instance even walking and standing is difficult and causes pain. This often leads to social isolation and can result in both mental and physical health challenges. Including an increased chance of developing depression and anxiety. There are anti-inflammatory drugs available to treat OA, but they do not stop the actual disease progression."