It’s a tough job being a surgeon, even tougher being a lung surgeon. Performing these high-risk surgeries requires great skill. When surgeons complete a successful lung operation, everyone breathes a sigh of relief. However, real relief may not come until weeks or even months later when doctors remove the patient’s lingering sutures or staples. There are always chances of leakages or having an air hole that doesn’t close up.
Nasim Annabi, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Northeastern University, has a better solution: a new type of surgical glue that could replace the need for staples and sutures altogether. The gel-like glue, called Me Tro, is made from a human protein that has been modified to react to ultraviolet light. Researchers apply the glue to a wound, place it under UV light for a few seconds, and voilà—the wound is sealed.
“Me Tro is unlike anything currently available,” Annabi said. ” It is highly adhesive, acting as a patch on lungs, hearts or other organs. The gel’s elastic quality makes it ideal for tissue that requires flexibility, like an expanding lung. It can be fine-tuned to degrade at a pace specific to the amount of time an organ needs to heal. And because it’s made from a human protein, the glue has another valuable trait.”
An operation for lung cancer is a major surgery. The recovery period can be several weeks or even months, resulting in patients being stuck in a ward for long periods. However, this glue might help with that as well. “We observed that this isn’t just a sealant, it actually helps with tissue regeneration,” Annabi said. For example, after a heart attack, the glue could be applied on the damaged heart muscle to assist in re-growth.
Annabi and her colleagues now plan to test the metro over a longer period of time. After that, she wants to run clinical trials with humans. Within three to five years, Annabi said she thinks the glue will be available in hospitals.