Public Release: 

The future of sutures and staples: A sealant inspired by slugs

A new Clinical Implications of Basic Research paper highlights a novel surgical adhesive on the horizon

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Although sutures and staples have been used for decades to close wounds or surgical incisions, both have their drawbacks: suturing can be time-consuming and can lead to extended and costly procedures, while staples are limited to use during open procedures and can cause tissue damage upon insertion, which can lead to infection. Additionally, neither offer a waterproof seal and are much stiffer than tissue, which can cause damage over time.

Jeffrey Karp, from Brigham and Women's Hospital, commented on David Mooney's work from the John Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. The team was inspired by the Dusky Arion slug's elastic defensive slime. The slime, a mucus-based multicomponent glue that makes the slug bond to surfaces and difficult to remove, is 97 percent water and contains two intertwined polymers with a net negative charge and positively charged proteins. Using the slime as a model, the team created a dissipative hydrogel with both ionically and covalently cross-linked polymers with a net negative charge and a bridging polymer that contained coupling reagents with a net positive charge. This resulted in the creation of an adhesive material that mediates strong interfacial contact and can stretch without breaking. They found that this new adhesive conforms and adheres strongly to the skin, cartilage, and arteries; closes holes in heart tissue; and stops bleeding from lesioned liver tissue.

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Karp is available for interviews upon request. Please contact Johanna Younghans at jyounghans@bwh.harvard.edu to schedule and to request a copy of the embargoed paper.

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