A new gel could save countless lives. The elastic, adhesive surgical glue could revolutionize emergency treatment, sealing up critical wounds in seconds.

Credits: University of Sydney.

Researchers from the University of Sydney and the United States have developed this potentially life-saving surgical glue, called MeTro. It’s not the first time something like this was considered, but the problem is that glue and human tissue are incompatible. MeTro’s key innovation is elasticity — being a hybrid elastic protein, it’s perfectly suited to patching up body tissues that continually expand and relax — such as lungs, hearts, and arteries.

The gen is applied directly to the wound, be it internal or external.

“The beauty of the MeTro formulation is that, as soon as it comes in contact with tissue surfaces, it solidifies into a gel-like phase without running away,” says one of the team, Nasim Annabi from Northeastern University, in Boston.

After this, the glue is exposed to ultraviolet light, which seals it into place. Wounds treated this way heal two times faster than those treated with traditional methods such as stitches or staples.

“We then further stabilise it by curing it on-site with a short light-mediated crosslinking treatment. This allows the sealant to be very accurately placed and to tightly bond and interlock with structures on the tissue surface,” Annabi adds.

Anthony Weiss, Professor at the University of Sydney and co-author of the study, likened the substance to silicone sealants commonly used around bathroom and kitchen tiles. But unlike silicone sealants, MeTro degrades without a trace of toxicity. The glue also contains a built-in degrading enzyme which determines how long before the glue dissolves, allowing the wound to heal.

“When you watch MeTro, you can see it act like a liquid, filling the gaps and conforming to the shape of the wound,” he said. “It responds well biologically, and interfaces closely with human tissue to promote healing. The gel is easily stored and can be squirted directly onto a wound or cavity.”

So far, the technology is only in animal trials; human trials have not yet been scheduled. However, MeTro successfully sealed incisions in the arteries and lungs of rodents and the lungs of pigs, delicate injuries which require immediate and careful treatment. Still, researchers are optimistic about human trials, given the potential the technology has already proven.

“We have shown MeTro works in a range of different settings and solves problems other available sealants can’t. We’re now ready to transfer our research into testing on people. I hope MeTro will soon be used in the clinic, saving human lives.”

Journal Reference: Nasim Annabi et al. Engineering a highly elastic human protein–based sealant for surgical applications. DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.aai7466

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