Scientists believe that this gel can seal wounds within a minute

Scientists believe that this gel can seal wounds within a minute

Researchers have developed a highly elastic surgical glue that, they say, can seal wounds within a minute.

The potentially life-saving surgical adhesive, called MeTro (short for methacryloyl-substituted tropoelastin), was created by an international team of scientists and could eliminate the use of more common methods such as stitches or staples. Biomedical engineers from the University of Sydney and the United States collaborated on the project.

MeTro was made using a natural elastic protein and can be used to seal wounds in tissues that are at the risk of re-opening, for example in organs such as the lungs, arteries and heart, which continually expand and contract.

The gel-like material also works on internal wounds in areas that are hard to reach and has been successfully tested on the lungs of rodents and pigs.

A scanning electron micrograph (on the left) and a histological staining (on the right), both showing how MeTro gel (on top), applied to an injured lung area, bonds and interlocks with the tissue surface. The elastic tissue is tightly sealed without the need for additional sutures or staples. (Image credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

When treated with UV light, MeTro takes only 60 seconds to set. It also comes with a built-in “degrading” enzyme, which can be tweaked to coincide with the wound-healing process – which could last anything from just a few hours to several months.

Study author Professor Anthony Weiss, from the University of Sydney, described the process as resembling that of silicone sealants used around kitchen tiles.

When you watch MeTro, you can see it act like a liquid, filling the gaps and conforming to the shape of the wound,” he said.

“It responds well biologically, and interfaces closely with human tissue to promote healing. The gel is easily stored and can be squirted directly onto a wound or cavity.”

He believes the technology could be used in treating serious internal wounds in emergency situations such as car accidents or war zones.

In an in vivo porcine lung incision model, photocrosslinked MeTro gel efficiently seals punctures in the animals’ lungs, as shown in this histological staining with the hydrogel in the top and lung tissue in the bottom section. (Image credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

The scientists behind the gel report that it’s simple to apply, can be easily stored, and works closely with natural tissue to heal a wound. What’s more, it degrades without leaving any kind of toxic leftovers in the body.

For one of the team, Ali Khademhosseini from the Harvard Medical School, the new glue comes from years of working to how MeTro gels can be used to repair the body.

It’s also one of several ways researchers are exploring to engineer our body’s own natural substances to help repair it when needed.

If the MeTro gel can be further developed into a commercial product, it could well become an essential part of a first responder’s toolkit.

“We have shown MeTro works in a range of different settings and solves problems other available sealants can’t,” says Weiss “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.”

The research has been published in Science Translational Medicine.

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