Harvard Researchers Create a New Glue Designed for Heart Surgery

The clinical adhesive is the first of its kind to be used on internal wounds.

Sometimes an idea just sticks.

For Dr. Pedro del Nido, Harvard Medical School professor of child surgery and chief of cardiac surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, the idea was to create a glue designed to better close a wound after heart surgery. A team of researchers lead by del Nido created a glue that can potentially be used on internal wounds. Their findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine

During the study, researchers examined different organisms that omit materials to bind solids with liquid and repel water. Using this research, the team designed a glue that harnesses these properties but is also biodegradable, elastic, and compatible with the patient. According to the study, the adhesive is the first of its kind, and able to bind wet tissue together even with increased blood pressure.

The inspiration to create a better adhesive came from frequent problems in securing post-surgical wounds after heart surgery, especially in children. The use of sutures can sometimes take too much time to stitch and add damage to an already recovering heart. In addition, the existing clinical adhesives are either toxic or don’t stick well when there’s blood, and therefore don’t work well on internal wounds.

In the study, del Nido had this to say:

“This adhesive platform addresses all of the drawbacks of previous systems in that it works in the presence of blood and moving structures,” said del Nido. “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.”

The adhesive is activated using an ultraviolet light. After just five seconds of light application, the glue can provide an on-the-spot seal. Researchers expect the glue to improve the outcomes of many open-heart surgeries.