Mussel glue used in scar-free skin grafting technique
Mussels have long been known for the adhesive they produce, which allows them to cling to rocks. The protein responsible has now been utilized in a new skin grafting technique, which reportedly results in little to no scarring.
Ordinarily in skin grafting surgery, a piece of healthy skin is attached over a wound site utilizing either sutures or staples – both often leave visible scars. Additionally, it can take a long time for the wound to heal, as the transplanted skin has to meld with the skin surrounding it.
A team at Korea's Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) set out to address these problems, by combining the mussel adhesive protein coacervate with the skin-moisturizing medication allantoin and an epidermal growth factor protein. The resulting bioadhesive was then used to bond sections of full-thickness pig and rodent skin onto wounds on both types of animals.
It was found that as compared to traditional skin grafting procedures, use of the bioadhesive greatly reduced both the amount of scarring and the time required for the wound to heal. The substance worked by initially releasing the allantoin into the wound, followed by the epidermal growth factor, the latter prompting the proliferation of new skin cells.
Not only were collagen and other skin factor levels revived, but the loss of hair follicles at the wound site was also kept to a minimum. Side effects weren't a problem, as coacervate is very biocompatible.
"This new system will be effectively applicable in the transplantation of various affected areas requiring tissue regeneration," said the lead scientist, Prof. Hyung Joon Cha.
The bioadhesive is now being commercialized by spinoff company Nature Gluetech, and is the subject of human clinical trials.