Bio-inspired adhesive, the latest innovation in the field of biotechnology, might just be what the medical world is waiting for to address the problem of ‘broken hearts’. ‘Broken heart’ in this context takes the literal sense of course. More specifically the term ‘broken heart’ refers to heart diseases particularly congenital heart disease. According to an update in MedLinePlus by Kurt R. Schumacher, MD, congenital heart disease refers to a heart problem that is present at birth.
According to an article in Harvard Gazzette by Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg, it is very critical for heart surgeries to be fast and efficient especially when the patient is a child or infant. However, one of the earlier methods involves the use of sutures to the heart which not only takes up much time but is also challenging to the doctors because of the delicate and fragile tissue.
One solution that was put forward to address was to use clinical adhesive. This might have worked well except that because the materials used to make the clinical adhesive are foreign to the body, there is a risk of it being toxic to the person. Also, the ability of clinical adhesives to attach to the intended organ (in this case, the heart) is not that great. In time, it loses its ‘sticking power’ and it becomes lose which can be very dangerous to the patient.
All the mentioned difficulties however were addressed and answered with the birth of bio-inspired adhesive. From the word ‘bio-inspired’ itself, the concept by which the researchers, including Gecko Biomedical co-founders Robert Langer Sc.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Jeffrey Karp Ph.D. (Brigham and Women’s Hospital), took their idea from can already be deduced. Basically, they noticed that certain organisms such as microscopic bacteria, fungi, mussels, insects, and even terrestrial vertebrates like the gecko use specialized adhesive organs and secretions to temporarily attach themselves to surfaces.
The researchers took note of the ability of the organisms mentioned and they noticed that the reason why these organisms are able to attach even to wet and dynamic condition was because the adhesive material they secrete is viscous and water-repelling. They made the mentioned characteristics their platform in their study and thus they were able to come up with a material that mimics the biological function of sticking to surfaces.
Jeffrey Karp, from the Department of Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a co-founder of Gecko Biomedical and co-senior author of the study was quoted by Gecko Medical in saying, “The tissue adhesive that we developed satisfies a long list of design criteria including biodegradation, biocompatibility, ability to strongly adhere on-demand to tissue with a water-tight seal in the presence of flowing blood, and elastic properties to accommodate cyclical forces such as those exerted by a beating heart or blood vessel. It offers the potential to
reduce the invasiveness of surgical procedures, reduce operative times, and improve outcomes for patients.”
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
As you can see from the table, bio-inspired adhesive is so much better than the previous systems. With it having several beneficial characteristics, it may have the capacity to ‘shift the surgical paradigm’ for the better as stated in Gecko Biomedical in an article entitled “Press Release: Gecko Biomedical’s Co-Founders demonstrate a ‘bio-inspired’ tissue adhesive that shows promise for minimally invasive heart surgery and vessel repair.” Another article in redOrbit.com entitled “Bio-inspired glue may improve how surgeons treat congenital heart defects and other heart problems” supported this idea.
Bio-inspired adhesives are a notch above the rest if you take
into account the time it takes for it to take effect because it is activated with UV light. As explained in redOrbit.com, within only five seconds after UV light application, the adhesive already attaches to the intended surface which makes it ideal for application to high-pressure large blood vessels and cardiac wall defects.
Previously, the challenge in heart surgery was not only time and efficiency but also the problem of wet and dynamic environments. Earlier clinical adhesives tend to loosen in the presence of blood or when the heart is beating which is of course very problematic. However, the tenacity and elasticity of the bio-inspired adhesive ensures that they stick to the tissue and stays in place even at the event of increased heart rates and blood pressure. RedOrbit.com quoted Maria N. Pereira, PhD, the co-first study author of bio-inspired adhesive in saying “When we attached patches coated with our adhesive to the walls of a beating heart, the patches remained despite the high pressures of blood flowing through the heart and blood vessels.”
There is also concern towards the adhesive being toxic to the body. However, because the materials used for the creation of the adhesive is bio-degradable as well as bio-compatible, it is safe for the human body and the patient can be assured that no foreign or toxic materials is left inside them.
With regards to the claim that bio-inspired adhesive may have the capacity to enhance surgical procedures, the researchers pointed out that the time spent in operating can be lowered and surgery can be safer, effective and have improved outcomes with the use of a light- activated and waterproof adhesive.
RedOrbit.com had quoted Robert Langer, ScD, MIT, in saying, “We are delighted to see the materials we developed being extended to new applications with the potential to greatly improve human life.”
The bio-inspired adhesive and all related technology and platforms has been licensed to Gecko Biomedical, a start-up company that is based in Paris, France. Recently, Gecko Biomedical was able to raise 8 million Euros for their announced series of adhesive technology. Experts predict that bio-inspired adhesive will be available to the market within two or three years.
Schumacher, Kurt. “Congenital heart disease.” MedLinePlus.
A.D.A.M.,Inc., 5 Dec. 2011. Web. 12 March 2014.
Montemayor-Quellenberg, Marjorie. “Bio-inspired glue keeps hearts securely sealed.” Harvard Gazette. N.p., 8 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 March 2014.
Del Campo, Aránzazu. “Bioinspired adhesives for medical applications.” Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research. N.p., N.d. Web. 12 March 2014.
“Press Release: Gecko Biomedical’s Co-Founders demonstrate a ‘bio-inspired’ tissue adhesive that shows promise for minimally invasive heart surgery and vessel repair.” Gecko Biomedical. Christophe Bancel, 9 Jan. 2014.
“Bio-inspired Glue May Improve How Surgeons Treat Congenital Heart Defects And Other Heart Problems.” redOrbit.com. N.p., 9 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 March 2014.
Connelly, HD. “Intricate hand-drawn line art design.” N.d. Digital file. [Insert Client’s Name]. “ Table 1: Response to previous system’s drawbacks.” 12 March 2014.