Soft tissue reconstruction often requires multiple surgical procedures that can result in scars and disfiguration. Facial soft tissue reconstruction represents a clinical challenge because even subtle deformities can severely affect an individual's social and psychological function. We therefore developed a biosynthetic soft tissue replacement composed of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) and hyaluronic acid (HA) that can be injected and photocrosslinked in situ with transdermal light exposure. Modulating the ratio of synthetic to biological polymer allowed us to tune implant elasticity and volume persistence. In a small-animal model, implanted photocrosslinked PEG-HA showed a dose-dependent relationship between increasing PEG concentration and enhanced implant volume persistence. In direct comparison with commercial HA injections, the PEG-HA implants maintained significantly greater average volumes and heights. Reversibility of the implant volume was achieved with hyaluronidase injection. Pilot clinical testing in human patients confirmed the feasibility of the transdermal photocrosslinking approach for implantation in abdomen soft tissue, although an inflammatory response was observed surrounding some of the materials.
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