In the evolving world of medicine, there’s a new gel that could change the lives of those who need a new arm or leg, and this is changing lives already.

When a person loses an arm or a leg and prepares for a transplant, rejection is always a concern. Patients must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives to fight rejection, but the drugs can wreak havoc on the rest of the body. Now, scientists have developed a new way to deliver the drugs to protect against rejection.

Painting and drawing for Richard Mangino is truly a gift – each stroke created without his hands.

“When you have no hands, even though I felt like I could do what everybody else could do, people look at you like, well he’s got no hands,” said Richard.

The quadruple amputee didn’t let that stop him painting with a hook. Then, four years ago, Richard became the first successful double hand transplant patient. He recalled, “When the chance came up, there’s over 7 billion people on the planet. And they’re not giving out hands everywhere. I was going to get them.”

His new hands gave him back his love for playing piano, allow him to easily mow his lawn and take a drive. However, like other transplant patients, Richard must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of his life – drugs that researcher Jeff Karp, with the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, says can damage the liver and kidneys.

Now, researchers have developed a new hydrogel technology that can deliver immune suppressant drugs locally to minimize toxic effects.

“And we engineered it in such a way that it would only release the drugs in the presence of inflammation,” said Dr. Karp. He says the new gel could potentially be injected just twice a year, rather than patients having to take daily pills. On this revelation, Richard said, “That’s huge to people. You know, because we all just want to be like everybody else.”

In a study in rats, researchers found the drug infused gel to be three times as effective as injecting the drug alone. Dr. Karp believes human trials could be three to five years away.

To see more of Richard’s art and poetry, go to

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