An injury to a blood vessel or an organ after traumatic internal injury is typically repaired by sutures, stapling or electrocautery. More problematic especially, will be cases of bleeding inside the lungs, because of the continuous movement due to inflation and deflation.

Human protein-based glue: A neat solution to a tricky situation

Researchers from America and Australia have now come up with a special type of glue that is effective on shape-changing internal organs such as the heart and lungs. Super-flexible, elastic and injectable, the glue consists of protein derived from the elastic fibres that make up the human tissue.

Called “MeTro”, for methacryloyl-substituted tropoelastic, what makes this a remarkable breakthrough is that it is made from a human protein configured to react to ultra-violet light.

Hence, instead of using staples or stitches, the glue is applied directly to the wound and activated with UV light to form a complete seal. Once it comes in contact with tissue surface, the glue solidifies into a gel-like phase, which researchers likened to a household silicone sealant.

The paper of the research has been published in Science Translation Medicine.

Tests conducted on animals have shown that MeTro can successfully seal incisions in the arteries and lungs of rodents and the lungs of pigs. The glue was not toxic to the subject animals and it can be naturally absorbed because its components were degraded.

MeTro: Not yet available for humans, more research needs to be done

Tissues adhesives are fast gaining popularity, as they are often quicker and easier to use. Furthermore, they do not create puncture marks and hence sufficiently provide a better alternative.

However, many of the available adhesives found on the market are far from perfect. They can unseal easily and do not adhere well particularly in surgical sites where there can be a lot of fluid. More essentially, when it comes to handling expansion, the adhesives could not do much as they do not exhibit sufficient flexible features.

Thus, when compared to the adhesives currently in use, MeTro was found to be more resistant to wound separation or breakdown. This makes the future of human protein-based glue more promising, potentially saving more lives and help improve patient outcome.

You would not be seeing MeTro in the hospital inventory as of yet, since this is still at an early stage. More research needs to be carried out and issues to be ironed out before approval for human patient use. Till then, the researchers are nevertheless still positive on the developments and are optimistic about the glue’s impact in the future.

Besides looking forward to clinical trials in humans, the researchers are also hoping to develop other applications with untested versions of the compound.

The potential of MeTro is far-reaching and can help improve patient outcome in the operating room and emergency department. This is especially so in cases of wounds with an extensive bleeding and an urgent need to prevent further complications. Beyond the hospital setting, the innovative glue also has a wider potential and will be particularly useful at emergency sites like traffic accidents or war zones. MIMS

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