Next-gen sutures inspired by tendons boost healing and deliver drugs
While they've been around for centuries in various forms and helped heal many a wound in the process, some scientists see a world of possibility when it comes to how sutures might help the human body. A team at McGill University has come up with novel kind of suture that is based on human tendons, which enables it to not only heal wounds more effectively, but possibly even monitor their progress and be loaded with drugs to stave off infection.
While expanding the capabilities of common sutures was a key focus for the McGill University researchers, they also sought to address what they see as a shortcoming with current designs. The stiff fibers used in the sutures of today can cause damage to surrounding tissue that can lead to further injury and complications following surgery, so they scientists cooked up a more satisfactory solution.
The way they see it, part of the problem is the contrast between these firmer sutures and the pliable nature of human tissue, which causes friction when the two interact. The team's solution was to turn to the human body for inspiration, developing a material based on tendons that is much more suited to the task.
“Our design is inspired by the human body, the endotenon sheath, which is both tough and strong due to its double-network structure," says lead author Zhenwei Ma. "It binds collagen fibers together while its elastin network strengthens it."
The scientists call their creation tough gel sheathed (TGS) sutures, as they are enveloped by a durable but slippery gel that mimics the soft structure of surrounding tissue. They was tested out in rats, and the team indeed found that the gel surface avoided the friction and damage that would otherwise be caused by traditional sutures.
To explore the sutures' potential to do more that just stitch together torn tissue, the scientists also demonstrated how they could be loaded up with antibacterial compounds, pH-sensing microparticles, drugs and fluorescent nanoparticles. While just a proof of principle, this raises the prospect of the sutures carrying out many additional functions, such as fighting off infections, delivering drugs to accelerate healing and monitoring the progress of the wound.
“This technology provides a versatile tool for advanced wound management," says study author, Jianyu Li. "We believe it could be used to deliver drugs, prevent infections, or even monitor wounds with near-infrared imaging. The ability to monitor wounds locally and adjust the treatment strategy for better healing is an exciting direction to explore."
The research was published in the journal Science Advances.
Source: McGill University