"Intestinal bandage" designed to better heal digestive tract wounds
When it comes to closing incisions or other wounds in the digestive tract, sutures alone aren't enough to keep digestive fluids or food waste from leaking out into the abdomen. A new hydrogel patch is designed to help, by thoroughly sealing such injuries up.
First of all, there are already biodegradable protein patches that are applied over stitched-closed wounds in the digestive tract.
According to scientists at Switzerland's Empa research institute, though, these dressings often dissolve too quickly when exposed to stomach acid, plus they may not remain adhered until the wound has completely healed. As a result, post-surgical complications such as peritonitis or sepsis can still occur.
Working with a colleague from Britain's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, the researchers have therefore created a new hydrogel patch made of four biocompatible substances: acrylic acid, methyl acylate, acrylamide and bis-acrylamide.
When the hydrophobic (water-repelling) composite was applied to pig intestines, its molecules cross-linked with those of the intestinal tissue, forming a strong and long-lasting bond. In fact, if digestive juices do leak out of a wound beneath the patch, they cause its materials to expand and close onto the tissue even tighter.
"Adhesion is up to 10 times higher than with conventional adhesive materials," says Empa researcher Dr. Alexandre Anthis, who led the study along with Empa's Prof. Inge Herrmann. "Further analysis also showed that our hydrogel can withstand five times the maximum pressure load in the intestine."
Plans now call for the technology to be commercialized via a spinoff company.
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.