Engineers have designed a new type of surgical suture based on the sticky substance spiders use to catch their prey.
The team at MIT was able to use the new double-sided tape to, within minutes, pull together damp rat and pig tissues including lungs and intestines.
“There are over 230 million major surgeries all around the world per year, and many of them require sutures to close the wound,” explained Dr Xuanhe Zhao, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.
The problem is that the sutures currently used “can actually cause stress on the tissues and can cause infections, pain, and scars. We are proposing a fundamentally different approach to sealing tissue,” added Dr Zhao, who is the senior author of the study.
In a paper published in the journal Nature, the researchers explain how the double-sided tape can be used to attach implantable medical devices to tissues, including the heart.
“In addition, it works much faster than tissue glues, which usually take several minutes to bind tightly and can drip onto other parts of the body,” explained MIT.
The double-sided tape that the team created needed to be able to rapidly join two wet surfaces together, and they found that spiders offered the best inspiration with the sticky material in their webs used to capture prey when it’s been raining.
This special glue contains charged polysaccharides, molecules which can absorb water from the surface of an insect almost instantaneously – creating a dry patch for the glue to stick to.
The engineers designed an adhesive to mimic this by using a polyacrylic acid – the asborbent material in children’s nappies – which sucks up water and forms weak hydrogen bonds with both tissues.
As these weak bonds temporarily hold the tape and tissues in place, other chemical groups called NHS esters create much stronger bonds using proteins in the tissue, over the course of about five seconds.
“It’s very challenging to suture soft or fragile tissues such as the lung and trachea, but with our double-sided tape, within five seconds we can easily seal them,” said graduate student and lead author Hyunwood Yuk.
“This provides a more elegant, more straightforward, and more universally applicable way of introducing an implantable monitor or drug delivery device, because we can adhere to many different sites without causing damage or secondary complications from puncturing tissue to affix the devices,” Mr Yuk added.
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