Researchers in China have recently developed an ingenious "surgical superglue" that can seal up a spurting heart wound with just a flash of ultra-violet (UV) light.
Reporting in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from the Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou say their experimental bio-glue is capable of stopping high-pressure bleeding from a beating pig heart without the need for any stitches. You can see the bio-glue in action on a pig's liver in the video below.
So far, the bio-glue has only been tested on the organs of rabbits and pigs. However, since pig organs are a relatively good proxy for human organs, the team hopes to start assessing whether the hydrogel could be used on human patients relatively soon.
"This highly efficient gel material can be injected, and has the potential to be used for surgical hemostasis [a process that causes bleeding to stop] and fast wound sealing in cases like open surgery and minimally invasive endoscopic surgery," Yi Hong, study author from Zhejiang University, told China's Xinhua state news agency.
Uncontrolled bleeding, whether it’s caused by trauma or surgery, is a major cause of death. Typical solutions, such as stitches, also come with their own drawbacks. Glue-like substances seem like a good solution, but they don’t stick particularly well to wet issues and are often toxic. Even some of the most advanced surgical glues can take minutes to set, meaning they're not particularly effective when time is of the essence.
This bio-glue, however, seems to defeat many of these challenges.
The bio-glue is made out of a hydrogel material that mimics the composition of the extracellular matrix, the mesh of protein fibers and glycoproteins that cells hang out in around your tissues. After the substance is blasted with an intense flash of UV light, it sets and can tightly bind to tissues. The researchers note this effect occurs due to “UV photo-generated aldehyde groups bonding with the amino groups on the tissue surface", which creates a watertight crosslinked network.
It seems to do a pretty good job too. The researchers tested out the bio-glue on small wounds in the beating hearts of pigs, as well as their carotid arteries, major blood vessels in the neck that supply blood to the brain and head. Soon after the surgery, the pigs were healing completely naturally with no signs of abnormalities.
“It is the first time that high-pressure bleeding of beating heart with 6 [milimeter] diameter cardiac penetration holes were rapidly stopped and the wounds were stably sealed by only using matrix gel within 20 [seconds] without suture,” the study concludes.