Spider-inspired double-sided tape could leave stitches in the past

Inspired on how spiders exude glue to catch their prey in the rain, a group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has designed a double-sided tape which sticks to the body tissue after surgery.

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The team studied the way spiders’ secretion absorbed water in order to secure their next meal. The latest sticky tape also performs in the same manner and allegedly works within seconds, as proven by results during tests on pig skin and lungs.

The tape is proposed as an alternative to stitches. Tests from scientists at MIT found the tape worked within seconds on pig skin and lungs. However, it is several years from being ready to trial on humans and more research is needed.

One of the main chemicals used in medical adhesive can be toxic to humans, causing pain and inflammation around the area where it is used. Other surgical glues are made from water-based gels. These are less toxic but do not bond with the same strength, doctors have said in the past.

“There are over 230 million major surgeries all around the world per year, and many of them require sutures to close the wound, which can actually cause stress on the tissues and can cause infections, pain, and scars,” study author Xuanhe Zhao, a mechanical engineer at MIT, says in a statement. “We are proposing a fundamentally different approach to sealing tissue.”

Spiders are known to secrete a sticky material that contains polysaccharides. This absorbs water from the surface of an insect almost instantly, by thus leaving a small dry patch which can be used as a glue to stick to.

The team of researchers has similarly used polyacrylic acid on the tap which can further absorb water from wet body tissue and activate the glue in order to stick fast. By adding chitosan or even gelatin helps to keep the tape its shape for a couple of days or even for a month, depending upon how long it requires to last.

The team has tested the tape on different types of pig and rat tissues, including small intestine, liver, stomach, and skin. More tests on animals will be performed in the future, they claimed. The tape can also be used to stick medical devices to organs such as heart “without causing damage or secondary complications from puncturing tissue”.

Study author Hyunwoo Yuk commented on the research, published in Nature: “It’s very challenging to suture soft or fragile tissues such as the lung and trachea – but with our double-sided tape, within five seconds we can easily seal them.” It could potentially also be used to attach medical devices to organs such as the heart “without causing damage or secondary complications from puncturing tissue”.

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