Life Sciences

New material could help treat heart defects

Researchers have developed a new adhesive that could be used to treat patients suffering from congenital heart defects.

Conventional treatments for such conditions are highly invasive and problems are posed by the need to secure the devices quickly and safely. Sutures take a long time to stitch and can put pressure on the developing heart muscle, while current adhesives are either too toxic or prone to lose their grip in the fast-flowing blood surrounding the heart.

Scientists at Boston Children's Hospital, BWH and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a bio-adhesive that could be used to rapidly attach biodegradable patches in patients suffering from heart defects. 

They were inspired by examples from nature, recognising that many creatures have secretions that are viscous and water repellent, enabling them to attach in wet and dynamic environments. They developed a material that is biodegradable, elastic and biocompatible, in addition to having viscous and water repellant properties.

The researchers found that the patches remained attached even at increased heart rates and blood pressure. 

"This adhesive platform addresses all of the drawbacks of previous systems in that it works in the presence of blood and moving structures," said Pedro del Nido, MD, chief of cardiac surgery, Boston Children's Hospital, co-senior study author. "It should provide the physician with a completely new, much simpler technology and a new paradigm for tissue reconstruction to improve the quality of life of patients following surgical procedures."

Ultraviolet light is used to activate the patch's adhesive properties, meaning an on-demand, anti-bleeding seal is put in place within five seconds of the light's application.

It is expected the seal will reduce the invasiveness of surgery as well as operating times, leading to improved surgical outcomes.

Robert Langer, ScD, MIT, and author of the study said he was delighted the materials his team developed would be used to greatly improve human lives.

A start-up company, Gecko Biomedical, based in Paris, has obtained rights to the adhesive technology and hopes to bring the adhesive to market in two to three years.