Heart-sealing adhesive: Bioglue can now heal broken hearts without surgery or sutures

The non-toxic gel made from gelatin & water solidifies under UV light & seals heart injuries in under a minute.

Scientists have found a new way to glue together a heart and other human organs during surgery without any sutures.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communication, Chinese scientists describe a mixture they've invented made largely from water and gelatin. The gel can be absorbed into the body over time as it is similar in composition to soft tissue in the body. There is no need for stitches to hold the wound together since the hydrogel, after being activated with UV light, quickly grows denser and forms a rubbery, waterproof seal over the heart injury.

(Here's a mildly-graphic look at the heart-sealing gel in action)

Representational image. Image courtesy: Texture Tech

Representational image. Image courtesy: Texture Tech

Sealing hearts with an adhesive

To seal heart and artery wounds, the adhesive needs to be strong enough to handle blood pressure and the movement of the heart. Importantly, it also needs to be non-toxic. This glue, according to the scientists, fits both criteria well. In fact, scientists believe the glue can withstand twice the average person's blood pressure and still get the job done.

Scientists used pigs and rabbits to test the glue's effectiveness. Pigs were chosen since their hearts are very similar to those of human beings. When pig's hearts were poked with a needle, the glue was applied directly to the wound, and the bleeding stopped in under a minute.

Two weeks later, the pig hearts were checked again for durability and leaks. They found none — only a small amount of inflammation in and around the organ.

Four-month-old pigs in a finishing barn are seen at Wessling Farms near Grand Junction, Iowa, U.S., July 5, 2018

Representational image. Reuters

The study's researchers have explained that the gel working on animals isn't a guarantee that it will in humans too. But, it does mean it is safe enough to test in humans. They reckon it should be ready to use in medical settings three to five years from now.

"No current existing clinical products can stop operative heart bleeding so quickly and efficiently," Hongwei Ouyang, researcher and co-author of the study, told The Independent in an interview.

While the heart break-healing gel is a breakthrough, the hydrogel isn't the first of its kind. There have been other studies that have used similar techniques as well.

In 2014, a Harvard study used a patch with glue to strategically patch up organs during or after surgeries. In 2017, there was another American study that spoke of a surgical glue that could close wounds as well. However, this is the first time the technology has been tested, awaiting final tweaks and some polish before it is made available to save millions of people with heart injuries.

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