Australian and American scientists have developed an experimental elastic surgical glue that dries in as little as 60 seconds, offering a viable and speedy alternative to sutures, wires and staples for closing wounds.
With staples and sutures also comes the risk of further damaging and infecting tissues and organs, and the procedure is not always a walk in the park for doctors, especially in hard-to-reach areas, fragile and elastic tissues such as the heart, lungs and arteries.
In the study published in the journal of Science Translational Medicine in October, the researchers said they wanted to develop a sturdy, fast-drying medical glue that would be able to conform to tissues that continuously expand or contract and relax.
While some medical glues already exist, they often adhere weakly, are not particularly flexible and frequently cannot be used in very wet conditions or mechanically-challenging places in the body.
"Currently available sealants are not suitable for most surgical applications and they do not work alone without the need for suturing or stapling because they lack an optimal combination of elasticity, tissue adhesion and strength. Using our expertise in creating materials for regenerative medicine, we aimed to create an actual fix for this problem in a multi-disciplinary effort with clinicians and bioengineers," said Ali Khademhosseini, Ph.D., Associate Faculty member at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.
The glue dubbed MeTro (methacryloyl-substituted tropoelastin) is a type of hydrogel made from tropaelastin, a naturally occurring protein in the body.
It can be directly applied on a wound no matter how 'wet'; and after being activated with a UV light it solidifies to create a complete seal in a matter of seconds.
"When you watch MeTro, you can see it act like a liquid, filling the gaps and conforming to the shape of the wound," Anthony Weiss, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Science, said, likening the application of MeTro to sealing tiles.
"It responds well biologically, and interfaces closely with human tissue to promote healing," he added.
The adhesive also has a built-in enzyme that allows it to dissolve over time, which can be anywhere from mere hours to several months, without any signs of toxicity. The type and location of the wound will determine how long the sealant lasts, the scientists said.
"The potential applications are powerful, from treating serious internal wounds at emergency sites such as following car accidents and in war zones, as well as improving hospital surgeries. We have shown MeTro works in a range of different settings and solves problems other available sealants can't. We're now ready to transfer our research into testing on people. I hope MeTro will soon be used in the clinic, saving human lives." said Weiss, pointing its endless potential.
The revolutionary glue, still awaiting human clinical trials, is expected to be available for human treatment within the next three years.