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Heart Vessel Surgical Glue Shown Effective in Animal Tests

Heart angiogram


Surgeons and biomedical engineers at Boston Children’s and Brigham and Women’s hospitals and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developed a non-toxic, biocompatible surgical glue that in tests with pigs patches heart defects, such as those in large blood vessels. The team led by Boston Children’s Pedro del Nido and Jeffrey Karp of Brigham and Women’s Hospital published its findings yesterday in the journal Science Translational Medicine (paid subscription required), and the technology is already licensed for commercialization.

Karp, del Nido, and colleagues from MIT, Harvard, and affiliated hospitals are seeking a way to treat congenital heart defects — affecting nearly 1 in 100 children — that often require multiple surgeries to repair, where implanted devices need to be replaced as the child grows. Suturing the defects can be too slow and dangerous to fragile heart tissue. Current adhesives are either toxic or not effective in repelling fluids, a mandatory requirement when patching high-pressure blood vessels in the heart.

The team looked for analogs in nature, and found examples such as viscous secretions from slugs and sandcastle worms that create stable adhesive bonds in marine environments. They devised a solution using polyglycerol sebacate acrylate or PGSA, a soft polymer material that is both water and blood repellent. PGSA is made of two naturally-occurring materials: gycerol, a component of lipids, and sebacic acid, a derivative of castor oil.

The researchers then needed a method to attach a PGSA patch to tissue in a live, beating heart. PGSA can be configured as a precursor material, then activated with ultraviolet light. Earlier studies show the material, when activated by ultraviolet light, has potential applications in tissue engineering and repair.

The team tested the PGSA material in pigs, which have hearts similar to humans. They found the glue penetrates the tissue, hardens, and locks in place after being exposed to ultraviolet light for five seconds. In the tests, researchers attached patches to repair defects in large blood vessels and the interventricular septum, the wall separating the left and right ventricles of the heart. The results show the patches remained in place for 24 hours.

The solution, say the researchers, can likely be applied to adult heart defects repaired through open-heart surgery and heart bypass operations, as well as children’s heart defects. “This adhesive platform addresses all of the drawbacks of previous systems in that it works in the presence of blood and moving structures,” says del Nido in a Boston Children’s Hospital statement. “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.”

While the technology still needs to be subjected to human clinical trials, Karp and MIT co-author Robert Langer already started a company, Gecko Biomedical, that licensed and plans to take the technology to market. The company, based in Paris, was founded last year, and in December attracted €8 million ($US 11 million) in first-round venture financing.

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