“We have developed a material based on natural proteins that is both sticky and elastic,” Ali Khademhosseini, an associate faculty member at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, told Digital Trends. “The protein is based on elastin, which is normally expressed in elastic tissues in our body, such as lung and vessels, and provides the tissue with mechanical resilience and elasticity. This material can be used in surgical applications to seal incisions, such as in the case of sealing air leaks after resection of lung tumor. Since the material is both strong and elastic, it can be used in applications that previously required sutures. Also the material can degrade as the tissue is formed.”
MeTro has so far been demonstrated in studies with rats, where it was able to help close up incisions in arteries, as well as punctures in lungs. It has additionally been demonstrated in pig lungs, where it was used to seal up wounds even when the lungs were repeatedly inflating and deflating. “We have shown that the material can be used in large animal models,” Khademhosseini continued. “The next step would be to try to develop a clinical trial where it can be used in humans. This would require a significant level of funding and potentially commercial partnership.”
Extrapolated to humans, Khademhosseini said that MeTro could be utilized for closing incisions after surgery. It could also potentially be used to treat serious internal wounds on site in scenarios like major car accidents or war zones.
In addition to Harvard University, other institutions involved in the research included Northeastern University, Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and the University of Sydney in Australia. A paper describing the research was recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
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