Surgical adhesives, which can be used to seal tissues after an operation or to repair wounds, are becoming increasingly important parts of a doctor’s toolkit. However, their one-size-fits-all nature means that existing adhesives, or glues, work well in some cases but not in others.
MIT researchers led by Prof Elazer R Edelman aim to develop glues tailored to specific tissues.
They have identified, for the first time, how one kind of glue material bonds to tissue and how that adhesion varies depending on the tissue involved, from the intestine to the lung.
They then showed how, by adjusting certain properties of the materials, it was possible to create a range of adhesives optimised for specific tissues and applications.
To do so they characterised a variety of interactions between one kind of glue (hyrogels composed of polyethylene glycol and dextran aldehyde, or PEG; dextran for short) and tissue from a rat’s heart, lung, liver and duodenum. The team found that the glue worked well with tissue from the duodenum, but poorly with that from the lung.
They went on to identify the functional groups in the material that were responsible for adhesion and then showed by modelling how varying those reactive groups could make them match the reactive groups on different tissues more effectively.
The team will use the findings to develop adhesive materials for specific tissues, although it could take three to five years before the work translates into a product.