Surgical glue being applied to a wound

Stretchy surgical glue could seal wounds in 60 seconds

Image credit: University of Sydney

The “squirtable”, stretchy glue is used to fill wounds – including internal wounds – and sets within a minute. By building in degrading enzymes, its lifetime can be controlled such that it disintegrates once the wound has healed.

The glue, MeTro, was developed by biomedical engineers at the University of Sydney, working with collaborators from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Northeastern University and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston.

In July, engineers at the Wyss Institute unveiled a tough, flexible surgical glue inspired by slug slime, which was also capable of adhering to wet surfaces.

Unlike most other surgical glues under development, MeTro is highly stretchable. This property was achieved by incorporating natural elastic protein technologies developed by University of Sydney biochemistry Professor Anthony Weiss.

Its elasticity makes it ideal for sealing injuries in tissues which continually expand and relax, such as lungs and hearts, without the risk of the sealant re-opening and causing further damage.

The glue contains light-sensitive molecules, causing it to set within a minute when activated with ultraviolet light. The length of time the glue must last in order for the wound to heal – from just hours to months – can be controlled by controlling a degrading enzyme in the solution.

The beauty of the MeTro formulation is that, as soon as it comes into contact with tissue surfaces, it solidifies into a gel-like phase without running away,” said Professor Nasim Annabi, a chemical engineer at Northeastern University.

“We then further stabilise it by curing it on-site with a short light-mediated crosslinking treatment. This allows the sealant to be very accurately placed and to tightly bond and interlock with structures on the tissue surface.”

The glue can also be applied to internal wounds, which are often difficult for surgeons to reach for treatment. In these areas, surgeons normally apply sutures or surgical staples, due to the moistness of body fluid preventing standard glues from adhering: it has already been used to seal cuts in the arteries and lungs of rodents, and the lungs of pigs with no need for sutures or surgical staples.

Next, the researchers will move on to clinical testing the glue in human patients.

Professor Anthony Weiss of the University of Sydney described the process of applying the glue as being like filling gaps in a bathroom with silicone sealant.

“When you watch MeTro, you can see it act like a liquid, filling the gap 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.”

“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.”

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