Double-sided sticky tape may be a kinder, gentler alternative to sutures
Although surgical sutures are routinely used to close wounds within the body, they can actually damage fragile internal biological tissue, sometimes causing infections or other complications. Scientists at MIT have developed what could be a better way to go, in the form of a double-sided tape.
The idea is that pieces of the tape get placed between two surfaces that need to be joined, such as the opposing sides of an incision made within an organ. Those two surfaces are then pressed together, with the tape holding them that way until the healing process is complete.
The base of the tape takes the form of a strip of either gelatine or chitosan, both of which harmlessly break down within the body after the job is done – gelatine lasts for a few days, while chitosan can last anywhere from a month to a year.
On both sides of those strips is a material known as polyacrylic acid. Commonly used in diapers, it starts by absorbing bodily fluids on the two surfaces to which it is applied. The acid is then quickly able to form weak hydrogen bonds with those now-dry surfaces, sticking them together.
Chemicals called NHS esters, which are present within the polyacrylic acid, subsequently form much stronger covalent bonds with proteins in the tissue. The whole bonding process takes only about five seconds – much faster than existing surgical glues.
The technology was actually inspired by the natural glue that's produced by spiders. It contains charged polysaccharides which absorb water from insect prey in wet conditions, allowing the glue to then adhere to those insects' bodies.
So far, the tape has been successfully tested on pig tissue including the skin, small intestine, stomach and liver, plus it's also been used on pigs' lungs and trachea. Ultimately, it is hoped that the material could be used not only to join pieces of tissue together, but to also secure implants within the body.
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature.