Research Highlights

Injectable bioorthogonal hydrogel (BIOGEL) accelerates tissue regeneration in degenerated intervertebral discs

The result of this research is an injectable bioorthogonal hydrogel system (BIOGEL) for enhanced IVD tissue regeneration. Tetrazine and norbornene bioorthogonal functional groups were grafted onto mammalian gelatin to produce a biocompatible, biodegradable, and cell adhesive hydrogel with a unique crosslinking mechanism. The BIOGEL starts as a free-flowing liquid that crosslinks into a solid hydrogel after it is injected into the IVD. This workflow produces minimal damage since (1) the bioorthogonal functional groups do not react with molecules in the body and (2) the injection procedure results in less tissue damage than incisions for transplanting solid hydrogels.

The BIOGEL technology was combined with TGFβ to treat rats with IVD degeneration. Here, the combined BIOGEL-TGFβ therapy promoted IVD tissue regeneration and alleviated symptoms (e.g., reduced pain) more effectively than either component by itself. Since the BIOGEL platform uses mammalian gelatin and bioorthogonal crosslinking, this material can be extended to other payloads and degenerative injuries.

PUBLICATION: This work was recently published in Bioactive Materials ( “Injectable bioorthogonal hydrogel (BIOGEL) accelerates tissue regeneration in degenerated intervertebral discs”, Bioactive Materials, 2023, 23, DOI: 10.1016/j.bioactmat.2022.11.017.

CORRESPONDENCE: Prof. Ki-Bum Lee (Rutgers University),

Collaborator: Prof. Inbo Han (Department of Neurosurgery, CHA University)

KBLEE Group Team: Jeffrey Luo, Dr. Thanapat Pongkulapa, Dr. Brian Conley, Dr. Letao Yang,

Group Members

Ki Bum Lee Ph 

Jeffrey Luo Web


Thanapat Pongkulapa Web

Brian Conley Web

Letao Yang Web