UV-activated superglue could literally help to heal broken hearts

Scientists at Zhejiang University in China have developed a new high-tech glue that’s capable of efficiently healing damage to organs, including the heart. While it hasn’t been tested on humans, the groundbreaking adhesive gel has been successfully demonstrated in animal tests involving pigs. In a proof-of-concept demonstration, scientists used a needle to puncture a small hole in the left ventricle of the animals’ hearts. Not only was the glue able to quickly stop the bleeding, but an examination of the animals two weeks later showed no signs that the glue had leaked and very little inflammation of the wounds.

The special glue is created from a mixture of water and polymers. The result is a protein-inspired viscous gel, which is then activated using ultraviolet (UV) light. At this point, the glue reacts with the surrounding biological tissues to create chemical bonds which seal up the wound and adhere to the tissue surface. Over time, the glue is absorbed into the patient’s body.

“Uncontrollable bleeding is a major problem in surgical procedures and after major trauma,” the researchers wrote in a paper describing their work, published in the journal Nature Communications. “Existing hemostatic agents poorly control hemorrhaging from traumatic arterial and cardiac wounds because of their weak adhesion to wet and mobile tissues. Here we design a photo-reactive adhesive that mimics the extracellular matrix (ECM) composition … These repairs can withstand up to 290 mm Hg blood pressure, significantly higher than blood pressures in most clinical settings.”

According to the researchers, no other clinical product on the market is able to stop heart bleeding so quickly. It’s not yet clear what’s next for the research. Presumably, human trials would be a future step at some point, although there’s no word on when that might be.

Fortunately, the Zhejiang University researchers aren’t the only ones working on a next-generation medical adhesive. Another project, developed by a team of researchers from the U.S. and Australia, involves a new hyperelastic type of surgical superglue, called MeTro. The hope is that it can be used as an alternative to staples or sutures — without the risk of scarring.

With any luck, it won’t be too long before one of these technologies makes its way to hospitals. For now, though, we guess we’ll have to focus on avoiding any injuries which may require similar adhesives to help heal.

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