A glue gun can banish the need for sutures after major surgery and reduce the risk of wound infection.
The portable device sprays hot glue onto wounds, which binds the tissue tightly before gradually dissolving after a few weeks after the wound has healed.
For centuries, doctors relied on stitches – or stitches – to close wounds with a needle and sterile thread, usually made from materials such as silk or nylon.
The technique is used whether someone is being treated for a minor injury, such as a cut that is not likely to close on its own, or that is undergoing more invasive procedures, such as open heart surgery.
New frontier: the latest technology is used, whether someone is being treated for a minor injury, such as a cut that is not likely to close on its own, or that is undergoing more invasive procedures, such as open heart surgery
More recently, the use of small metal staples has become common, particularly in large operations such as hip or knee replacements. The big advantage is that they can be applied much faster than stitches.
Both techniques, however, entail a certain degree of risk, in particular the risk of wound infection, because staples and stitches both penetrate the wound itself, allowing bacteria that are naturally present on the skin to penetrate.
Staples must also be removed once the wound has healed, as well as many types of stitches – which entails an additional risk of infection and means more hospital trips for patients.
The glue gun can solve these problems.
Medical glue has been around since the seventies. It was first developed for military purposes, to help soldiers in the field quickly patch up injured comrades until they could get the right medical help. Just like super glue, it adheres in seconds.
But one of the most important chemicals used in medical glue, cyanoacrylate, can be toxic to human tissue and often causes pain and inflammation around the area where it is used.
It also tends to harden too much, reducing the elasticity of the skin or tissue and increasing the chance of visible scars.
Other medical adhesives are made from water-based gels. These are less toxic, but do not bind with the same strength.
Traditional method: For centuries, doctors relied on sutures – or sutures – to close wounds with a needle and sterile thread, usually made from materials such as silk or nylon
As a result, the use of both types of medical glue is limited to superficial skin wounds that require minimal adhesion.
Now scientists from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, have developed a new type of glue that binds tissue as effectively as stitches, but does not have the toxicity of existing medical adhesives.
It contains a modified form of biodegradable polyester called polycaprolactone, which is already being investigated for use in medical implants and drug coatings, as it gradually degrades in the body over a period of weeks or months.
The team has developed the glue in the form of a fixed stick, such as that used in craft work, so it is easy to store and use (many existing adhesives are liquid).
Once the stick is placed in the gun (in tests they used a glue gun that was just purchased in the store), it is heated to about 45 ° C – hot enough to turn it into a thick liquid, but not so hot that it is healthy tissue burned.
Because it makes contact with human tissue, it cools to body temperature – around 37 ° C – and binds to the surrounding tissue and quickly changes into a semi-solid that is strong enough to close wounds but stretchable enough to normal movement. The entire process, from application to binding, takes just a few seconds.
During laboratory tests, the hot glue was found to produce an almost as strong bond as existing medical adhesives, but without the toxic effects, according to the results in the Advanced Functional Materials magazine.
Experiments showed that within two weeks the glue was dissolved in small particles that are absorbed by the body and washed away as waste, leaving the skin virtually scar-free.
The team is now fine-tuning the glue to further improve its adhesive strength before conducting human clinical trials in the coming years.
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