Researchers from the United States and Australia have announced the development of a new type of surgical glue that can seal a wound in roughly 60 seconds. The new surgical glue, called MeTro, was created using proteins similar to those that make up elastin in the human body. The researchers’ work was published in Science Translational Medicine this week.
Surgical wounds are typically closed using sutures or staples, but neither can create a complete seal. Internal injuries and wounds on organs that expand and contract are notoriously difficult to seal. In these cases, the surrounding body fluid tends to hamper the effectiveness of other sealants.
According to Nasim Annabi, an author of the study and a researcher at Northeastern University, an effective surgical sealant must be elastic, adhesive, non-toxic and biocompatible. Annabi said, “Most sealants on the market possess one or two of these characteristics, but not all of them. We set out to engineer a material that could have all of these properties.”
Researchers from the University of Sydney, Harvard Medical School, and Northeastern University worked in tandem on the substance. A range of MeTro hydrogels with different elasticities were created by varying the concentrations of the proteins in the substance. The proteins were intermixed with a light sensitive sealant material. A continual stream of UV light set the material in about a minute.
The researchers say the surgical glue acts like a liquid by filling the gaps and conforming to the shape of the wound. Annabi said, “The beauty of the MeTro formulation is that, as soon as it comes in contact with tissue surfaces, it solidifies into a gel-like phase without running away.” The compound is easily stored and can be squirted directly onto a wound or cavity.
MeTro was tested by using it to seal artery incisions and lung punctures in rats. Researchers also found that the surgical glue could successfully seal wounds in pig lungs despite repeated inflations and deflations. In all cases, the substance worked without need for sutures or staples.
The substance also contains a built-in degrading enzyme that denatures the material after a set period of time. The different varieties of the sealant can last anywhere from a few hours to a few months. The researchers say it could be used to treat both external and internal tissues.
The new substance could eventually be used in surgeries and in emergency situations. Another author of the study, Anthony Weiss, a researcher at the University of Sydney, 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.”
The new surgical sealant has yet to be tested in humans. Weiss said. “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.”