Bio-inspired, light-activated glue could fix heart defects

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A team of doctors and researchers have come up with a new water-repellent light-activated glue that they say could represent a paradigm shift in surgical medicine and in the recovery of patients from surgical procedures.

Whenever doctors perform open heart surgery, to fix birth defects or in repairing damage, they not only need to act quickly, but they need something that can seal defects and incisions closed while holding up to the pressures and stresses the beating heart can produce. Sutures can take too long and can put unwanted stress on the tissues at a most vulnerable time. Staples are quicker, but dont provide a tight seal, and you have to go back in afterward to remove them. Most glues dont work in a wet environment, or they cant stand up to the stresses of blood pressure and muscle movement, or theyre just too toxic.

However, taking inspiration from organisms such as slugs, spiders and the sandcastle worm, the research team designed a glue that would seem to be the answer to all of those issues.

First off, its non-toxic, so its safe to use internally. It starts off with the consistency of honey, allowing it to be painted onto biodegradable patches for use in or on the heart, or directly onto smaller incisions in blood vessels. Since its water-repellent, it sticks regardless of having a dry surface. The molecules of the glue stick to the natural connective collagen proteins of the heart tissues, and when the glue is exposed to ultraviolet light, it hardens, producing a seal that can stand up to blood pressure and the motion of the beating heart.

The glue is only in preclinical trials now, but a new startup company formed by members of the research team, called Gecko Biomedical, has already raised more than 0 million to develop it. They hope to bring the glue to market in three to five years.

According to the researchers, roughly one in 100 babies born in the United States each year suffer from some kind of congenital heart defect, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation reports the same figure for Canada. Current methods to repair these defects typically require multiple surgeries, but this new glue and biodegradable patches could vastly improve both surgery times and recovery times for young patients. With preclinical trials being performed at Boston Childrens Hospital, the natural focus of the discussion is use in kids. But if it passes human trials, the glue could replace surgical staples and stitches in many other procedures as well.

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“Bio-inspired, light-activated glue could fix heart defects”