— Over the years, chemists have figured out how to make
glues that stick to practically every material known to
that includes every material known to make up humans.
the latest adhesives for use in the body, TissuGlu, aims to
eliminate the need for fluid drains after reconstructive
surgeries such as tummy tucks or mastectomies. The Pittsburgh
developers already have gotten it approved in Europe.
novel stickum may vastly improve surgeons’ ability to repair
congenital holes in newborns’ hearts. The developer, Gecko
Biomedical, has successfully tested the glue in animals.
we have an adhesive that can be placed in the most challenging
environment in the body — the beating heart," said
company cofounder Jeffrey Karp, a biomedical engineer at
Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.
or caulking skin, blood vessels, eyes, bones, and other organs
may sound like science fiction, but it has become as standard
as stitches and staples. Analysts valued the global market for
tissue adhesives and sealants at $3.1 billion in 2012.
sure to grow, experts say, driven by pressures to speed up
patients’ recoveries and make surgeries less invasive.
field of medical adhesives is young. The first one approved in
the United States under modern device regulation was Dermabond,
in 1998. (Many more have been approved in Europe, where the
regulatory bar is lower.)
of Pennsylvania emergency medicine physician Judd Hollander
helped lead the clinical studies that proved Dermabond —
made of cyanoacrylate, just like Krazy Glue — can safely
handle uncomplicated cuts.
a kid has a simple laceration where the edges of the skin come
together," Hollander said, "it’s mean to use
— thread or wire sewn into the flesh — are a venerable way
to manage cuts and incisions. They can withstand stretching
and twisting, so the healing tissue rarely pulls apart.
Absorbable threads don’t even require removal.
sutures involve anesthesia, needle punctures, and a high risk
of infection. Applying them, especially in inaccessible areas
of the body, takes skill, and they may not be adequate in
blood vessels or organs that leak blood or air.
stuff can overcome these drawbacks. The Food and Drug
Administration has approved about 10 product classes.
which gradually sloughs off the healing skin, now is used on a
quarter of all lacerations in emergency departments, said John
Quinn, a Stanford University emergency-medicine physician and
compound generally can’t be used inside the body because it
sets off inflammation. But it’s so safe on the skin that it
is sold as over-the-counter "liquid bandages."
important type of adhesive acts as a sealant, preventing or
stopping bleeding and leaks. The products have biological
components — fibrin, thrombin, or collagen — and work by
mimicking stages of blood clotting.
is a nontoxic version of urethane, the same versatile polymer
used to make solvents, plastics, and more.
as a liquid with a special glue gun, TissuGlu
"cures" when exposed to moisture in the body,
forming a stretchy seal that eventually biodegrades.
of Pittsburgh polymer chemist Eric Beckman said he
"stumbled" onto the innovative compound about 10
years ago. But it was Patrick Daly, chief executive of Cohera
Medical, the company they formed, who found a niche for it:
surgeries in which large sheets of skin and tissue are cut and
reconnected. The trauma causes a buildup of fluid that must be
siphoned off for days with plastic drains. (Actress/double
mastectomy patient Angelina Jolie said it felt "like a
scene out of a science-fiction film.")
some women continue to be plagued by a stubborn pocket of
fluid, or seroma, that has to be suctioned — or treated with
yet more surgery.
clinical studies, bonding the healing tissue layers with
TissuGlu eliminated or reduced fluid accumulation and, thus,
the need for drains. The product was approved in Europe in
2011; Cohera hopes to get the FDA’s imprimatur this year.
Germany, Christian Eichler, a breast cancer surgeon at
Holweide Hospital in Cologne, said the only big drawback was
price — about $500 per mastectomy patient. He reserves
TissuGlu for patients who are frail or at high risk of seroma.
Gecko Biomedical, meanwhile, is among biotechs taking cues
from the amazing adhesion abilities of animals such as geckos,
algae, barnacles, starfish, spiders, and mussels.
recent study of pigs, Karp and his colleagues used a nontoxic,
ultraviolet-light-activated glue — made from natural
glycerol and sebacic acid — to affix biodegradable patches
on holes in beating hearts. The minimally invasive procedure
holds promise for repairing heart vessels and heart defects in
taken a bio-inspired approach because I think solutions are
all around us," Karp said, "and evolution is the