Today, many medical procedures are performed using very small incisions with miniature cameras and surgical tools inserted through the small incisions to remove tumors and perform other surgeries to repair damage inside the body. Minimally invasive procedures are preferred because the surgery is less painful and has a shorter recovery time than traditional open surgeries. One major challenge during these minimally invasive procedures is sealing internal wounds and tears.
Engineers at MIT have developed a new medical patch that can be folded around tools used in minimally invasive procedures inspired by origami. The ability to fold the patch around surgical tools allows it to be delivered into airways, intestines, and other narrow spaces to treat internal injuries. The patch looks like a folded paper-like film when dry. However, when it makes contact with tissues or organs, it transforms into a stretchy gel similar to a contact lens able to stick to an injured site.
MIT’s development has some significant advantages compared to existing surgical adhesives. The new material is designed to resist contamination when exposed to bacteria and bodily fluids. One significant benefit is that over time the patch will biodegrade and disappear. Researchers at MIT worked directly with clinicians and surgeons to optimize the design for surgical use.
The patch technology spans many fields and can be used to repair a perforation from a colonoscopy, seal solid organs, or treat blood vessels after trauma or elective surgery. The technology could be used to perform repair during minimally invasive procedures without resorting to open surgery at least temporarily and possibly for the long-term.
The patch is made from three layers with a middle layer that’s the main bioadhesive made from a hydrogel material embedded with compounds called NHS esters. When in contact with the wet surface, the adhesive absorbs any surrounding water becoming pliable and stretchy, allowing it to mold to tissue contours. The esters can also form strong covalent bonds with compounds on the tissue surface to create a tight seal between the two materials.