Healthwatch: Sticky Surgical Stitches

By: Sciencentral
By: Sciencentral

Think surgery. Think stitches and staples. While tape is used in some cases, outside the body, researchers say there has to be a better way, especially inside the body.

"There's a great need for a tape-based medical adhesive that can either augment or replace standard sutures or staples," said Jeff Karp, a researcher with Harvard Medical School.

Enter this guy, a gecko with feet that let him walk up walls.

"We look at this more of a gecko inspired adhesive than a gecko mimicking adhesive," Karp said.

What's inspiring Karp is nano-scale pillars in gecko feet that provide a tighter connection between the feet and a wall, so tight that on a molecular level, there's a sort of magnetic attraction.

As they wrote in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," the researchers made a surgical tape by fabricating similar tiny pillars that mechanically held to tissue. For more holding power, they added a glue.

"We had to go beyond the mechanisms that the gecko uses to attach and add this thin layer of a biodegradable glue to the surface," said Karp.

What they wanted was a tape that could stick to wet tissue inside someone.

"We have tested this against intestinal tissue in the laboratory and we've maximized the adhesion through playing with the various nano-scale features of these pillars," said Karp.

It's scientific use of this guy's "tacky little secret" that may some day make surgical stitches a thing of the past.

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