A powerful bio-gel that has the capacity to prevent heart patients from bleeding out on operating tables; dramatically reduce patient recovery time; and save the lives of those injured in warzones and serious accidents has been created in China.
When activated by UV (ultraviolet) light, the “bio-glue” immediately forms a complete seal, even on wet tissue, without the need for staples or stitches.
Afterwards, three of the pigs were monitored for a two-week period and they all made a full recovery with no abnormalities or side effects.
Corresponding author Professor Hongwei Ouyang hopes that the gel, which is described in Nature Communications, will be available for human use sometime in the next three to five years.
Until now, medical glue has not proved strong enough to withstand the forces inside the pumping chambers of hearts or major blood vessels.
“Uncontrollable bleeding is a major problem in surgical procedures and after major trauma,” explained Ouyang, an expert in regenerative therapy at Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, China.
“Existing clotting substances poorly control haemorrhaging from traumatic arterial and cardiac wounds because of their weak adhesion to wet and mobile tissues.”
The new bio-gel, however, contains water, gelatin, and a cocktail of chemicals that is injected into the injured tissue. These components help to mimic the support structure of cells called the “extracellular matrix”, a complex composition of proteins and other molecules. When exposed to UV light, the glue sets rapidly.
“Upon UV irradiation, organic compounds at the tissue-hydrogel interface react with amino groups of the tissue proteins, forming strong bonds,” says Ouyang. “The triggered hydrogel is like rubber. We can even say it is like a connective tissue.
“The components and mechanical properties of the hydrogel mimic those of human soft tissues.”
Gel-based solutions require both strong adhesions to the wet tissue and the strength to resist high blood pressure and the movement of a beating heart – but very few non-toxic materials meet these criteria, says Ouyang.
“This hydrogel can undergo rapid setting to adhere and seal bleeding arteries and cardiac walls after UV light irradiation. These repairs can withstand up to 290mmHg blood pressure, significantly higher than blood pressures in most clinical settings.
“Most importantly, the hydrogel can stop high pressure bleeding from pig carotid arteries with 4 to 5mm long incision wounds and from pig hearts with 6mm diameter cardiac penetration holes.
“Treated pigs survived after treatment with this hydrogel, which is well-tolerated and appears to offer a significant clinical advantage as a traumatic wound sealant,” added Ouyang. “It is the first time high-pressure bleeding of beating heart with 6mm diameter cardiac penetration holes were rapidly stopped.”
Ouyang goes on to say that the potential applications for the gel are limitless – from surgery to the battlefield or civilian catastrophes, either accidental or deliberate.
“It can be easily applied in any condition and can stop any serious bleeding which current medical gel products cannot stop.”
Further studies are now being planned to confirm the safety of the glue in humans.
“The next step is to finish the pre-clinical data and get official approval for a clinical trial,” says Ouyang.