Researchers at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology have developed a glue gun to put the human body back together when it has been seriously injured.
The pins and stitches currently used to treat serious injuries come with drawbacks: They can be painful, they leave scars, they require high skill from the doctor, and they sometimes have to be removed after the tissues heal. Suture on the intestine, lungs or blood vessels often leak and therefore require a sealant.
The medical glue that the researchers have developed is a “two in one,” said Prof. Boaz Mizrahi, head of the Biomaterials Laboratory of the Technion. It replaces both stitches and the sealant, and is good for both external and internal injuries, he said.
All sorts of medical glues are already being used in dermatology, surgery, and other areas. Israeli startup Nanomedic Technologies Ltd., for example, has developed a medical device that it says can dress burns and other wounds with nano materials that mimic human tissue and peel off once the skin below is regenerated.
Still, the glues currently in use to replace sutures and staples are limited by their mechanical properties and toxicity, the researchers said. Because they are very toxic, they can be utilized only on the surface of the skin. In addition, hardening of the glue may make the organ less flexible or the adhesion may not be sufficiently strong.
With these limitations in mind, researchers have been on the hunt for a glue that is suitable for different tissues, nontoxic, and flexible after hardening. Such a glue would also need to decompose in the body after the tissue is fused together.
Mizrahi worked together with doctoral student Alona Shagan and came up with what they say is a “very strong, nontoxic tissue adhesive that remains flexible even after solidification.” Their study was published in the journal of Advanced Functional Materials.
Melting the glue and smearing it on the damaged tissue is performed with a hot-glue gun. The gun warms the glue to just above body temperature so as not to cause a burn. After the glue is applied, it quickly hardens, then decomposes within a few weeks. The adhesive is also suitable for use on tissue inside the body, and it is four times as strong as existing adhesives used for this purpose. Tested on cells and laboratory animals, it was effective and nontoxic, the researchers said.
Use of the polymer for medical purposes has previously been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “We played with its physical structure,” said Mizrahi, to lower the polymer’s melting point, but its chemical properties otherwise remains the same, so there is no need for additional FDA approvals, he said.
The polymer is inserted into a glue gun and melts upon minimal pressure. It is squeezed directly onto the wound, where it solidifies, bonding strongly with both edges of the wound, the Technion said in a statement.
The researchers believe the new concept will lead to the development of devices that will reduce the use of stitches, staples and pins, speed up the healing process and reduce scarring.
The university tested the technology on animals and has patented it. Because its components are materials that have been previously approved by the FDA, Mizrahi hopes that “the product can reach the market in two or three years.” The university is now looking for a partner to commercialize the technology, he added.