PHOTODYNAMICS/PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGY: UV light-activated glue dramatically improves pediatric heart defect treatment

A new material with light-activated adhesive properties promises a dramatic improvement in treatment for children born with certain heart defects.1 The "glue" provides an on-demand, anti-bleeding seal within 5 s of ultraviolet light application, even when used on high-pressure large blood vessels and cardiac walls of a beating heart.

When a child is born with a defect such as a hole in the heart, the current treatment, a highly invasive therapy, is challenged by the difficulty of quickly and safely securing devices inside the heart. Sutures are time-intensive and can stress fragile heart tissue, and currently available clinical adhesives are either toxic or prone to failure in the presence of blood and dynamic conditions like heartbeats.

Waterproof, light-activated glue can successfully secure biodegradable patches to seal holes in a beating heart
Waterproof, light-activated glue can successfully secure biodegradable patches to seal holes in a beating heart. (Image courtesy of Karp Laboratory)

The innovation results from collaboration among researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; all in Boston, MA). Inspired by the fact that many creatures secrete viscous, water-repellent substances that enable them to attach to wet surfaces in dynamic environments, the team designed the new material with these attributes and also to be biodegradable, elastic, and biocompatible. Their study demonstrated that degradable patches secured with the glue remained attached, even when the patient's heart rate and blood pressure increased.

The adhesive technology (and other related platforms) has been licensed to a start-up company, Gecko Biomedical (Paris, France). The company has raised $10.8 million (€8 million) in their recently announced Series A financing round and expects to bring the adhesive to the market within 2–3 years.

1. N. Lang et al., Sci. Transl. Med., 6, 218, 218ra6 (2014).

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