Photo by Patrick Mather of Syracuse University
Liquid crystals are characterized as having the fluidity of liquid but some of the order of a crystal so they can be oriented to have structure. They are not water-loving, in that they will dissolve in water, making them less than ideal candidates for use inside the body.
Hydrogels, however, are water-loving but they lack the order to orient them into specific shapes.
Combining the properties of liquid crystals and hydrogels in just the right proportions creates the potential for new materials that have the same mechanical properties as soft tissues in the body. A material that is water-loving and has structure opens up the door the possibility for artificial blood vessels that are mechanically stealth so they wouldn't be viewed as a foreign body.
Announced January 11, 2016, Syracuse Professor Pat Mather has developed a process that can create this type of a polymer.