Researchers at MIT have created a surgical tape that can seal leaks and tears in the intestine. The off-the-shelf product has been designed to replace sutures, which are difficult to sew in the gut and can cause scarring or leaking. The adhesive patch is biocompatible, and the researchers designed it so that it will biodegrade after healing has occurred, without sticking to nearby tissues or triggering inflammation. The researchers hope that the technology will offer a rapid and safe way to seal internal leaks, tears, and incisions.
Suturing slippery intestines is challenging, and the consequences if the intestine later leaks can be serious. To save time for surgeons, and perhaps improve surgical outcomes, these researchers have developed “duct tape” for the guts, an adhesive patch that can rapidly adhere to the intestine, sealing leaks and tears. The tape can persist for approximately a month, allowing the underlying tissue to heal.
“We are studying a fundamental mechanics problem, adhesion, in an extremely challenging environment, inside the body,” said Xuanhe Zhao, one of the developers of the new material. “There are millions of surgeries worldwide a year to repair gastrointestinal defects, and the leakage rate is up to 20 percent in high-risk patients. This tape could solve that problem, and potentially save thousands of lives.”
The adhesive in the tape is polyacrylic acid and it also contains NHS esters, which bind to proteins in the underlying tissue and help to enhance the tissue bond. A polyvinyl alcohol hydrogel helps the tape to maintain its shape over time, and an outer polyurethane layer prevents the material from sticking to nearby tissues and organs.
“We think this surgical tape is a good base technology to be made into an actual, off-the-shelf product,” said Hyunwoo Yuk, another researcher involved in the study. “Surgeons could use it as they use duct tape in the nonsurgical world. It doesn’t need any preparation or prior step. Just take it out, open, and use.”
The material is flexible, allowing it to expand and contract with the intestine. “We don’t want the patch to be weaker than tissue because otherwise it would risk bursting,” said Yuk. “We also don’t want it to be stiffer because it would restrict the peristaltic movement in guts that is essential for digestion.”
Study in Science Translational Medicine: An off-the-shelf bioadhesive patch for sutureless repair of gastrointestinal defects