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Scientists believe that slugs may be the solution to a broken heart. Slimy creatures such as slugs have inspired the development of a sticky, waterproof adhesive that can be used to glue biodegradable, elastic, and biocompatible patches inside a beating heart. This development is especially important for the 40,000 babies per year that are born with congenital heart defects in the US. These children have to undergo many highly invasive surgeries, and sutures not only take too long to stitch, but can also place a fragile heart under excessive stress.

Heart Glue Diagram Slug Inspired Waterproof Glue Can Seal Holes In Damaged Heart Tissue

The waterproof, light-activated glue can successfully secure biodegradable patches to seal holes in a beating heart. Image credit: Karp Laboratory

Adhesives that are currently available are either very toxic or do not have enough sticking power to withstand the dynamic environment of a beating heart. In a pre-clinical study, this new biodegradable, non-toxic adhesive was tested on pig hearts. Because the technology is inspired by creatures whose slime are viscous and repel water, the adhesive was found to be strong enough under high blood pressures and heart rates. Once a patch is placed over the heart, the adhesive can be activated within seconds by a UV light, creating a nearly instant anti-bleeding seal. This technology is expected to be available on the market within 2-3 years and will have massive implications for all kinds of heart surgeries and even tissue reconstruction.

Think About:

1. How else can this adhesive be used in surgery?
2. How does this compare to the programmable DNA glue also being studied? (See previous article about DNA glue HERE.)
3. This adhesive technology is currently licensed to a biotechnology company in Paris. Taking patent laws into consideration, how much will this adhesive cost? Will it be affordable enough to be commonly used in surgery or only in richer hospitals?

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