Future Tense

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Technology: Tissue-specific surgical adhesives

Developer: Massachusetts Institute of Technology in collaboration with Brigham and Women's Hospital and Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona, Spain

Purpose: To tailor surgical glues for specific soft tissues

How it works: Historically, surgical adhesives have used one general formula for a range of soft tissues. This glue would optimize adhesion for specific tissue types by customizing the chemical reactive groups in the glue to the density of the corresponding reactive groups in the tissue.

Potential improvement: Physicians use surgical adhesives to seal tissues after an operation and repair wounds—to varying degrees of success. The glue may work well on lung tissue but perform poorly on heart tissue. For example, the glue may release toxins that could impact healing or degrade quickly, forcing physicians to use sutures instead. Tailoring surgical adhesives to specific tissue types can improve care and lower healthcare costs by reducing medical complications after surgery, such as leakage through incisions.

What's next: Researchers studied the interaction of one kind of glue, PEG dextrose, which is composed of polyethylene glycol and dextran aldehyde, and the tissue from a rat's heart, lung, liver, and duodenum. Based on those findings, they are developing a line of tissue-specific surgical adhesives. The end product is still likely three to five years out.

Carrie Vaughan

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