A light-activated adhesive gel that can rapidly seal wounds to arteries and the heart is presented in an article published in Nature Communications. The ‘bio-glue’, demonstrated in a pig model, could have potential applications in surgery in the future. However, additional studies are needed to confirm the safety of the gel for its use in further trials, including those involving humans.
Uncontrolled bleeding following trauma or during surgery is a major cause of death and it is difficult to seal these wounds without sutures (stiches). Gel-based solutions require both strong adhesion to the wet tissue and the strength to resist high blood pressures and the movement of a beating heart. However, very few non-toxic materials meet these criteria.
Hongwei Ouyang and colleagues designed a gel that mimics the composition of the extracellular matrix (a network of proteins and other molecules) and rapidly sets when exposed to ultraviolet light. In preliminary animal experiments in the laboratory, the authors showed that their system was able to seal wounds to pig livers. Following this they performed a set of surgical procedures on pigs and were able to demonstrate that wounds to the heart could be sealed using the hydrogel without the need for sutures. Following the procedure, three of the pigs were monitored for a two-week recovery period and no abnormalities were observed as a result of the surgery.