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UV-Activated Adhesive Treats Heart Defects

BOSTON, Jan. 13, 2014 — A bio-inspired, light-activated adhesive used to treat congenital heart defects could soon replace more invasive treatments such as sutures, new research indicates.

A preclinical study conducted by Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and MIT shows that the adhesive could rapidly attach biodegradable patches inside a beating heart, in the exact place where congenital holes in the heart occur, such as with ventricular heart defects.


Waterproof and light-activated, the adhesive secures biodegradable patches to seal holes in a beating heart and close transmural cardiac wall defects. Images courtesy of Randal McKenzie/McKenzie Illustrations.


“This study demonstrated that the adhesive was strong enough to hold tissue and patches onto the heart equivalent to suturing,” said the study’s co-first author Nora Lang, M.D., of the Department of Cardiac Surgery at BCH. “Nothing foreign or toxic stays in the bodies of these patients.”

The adhesive properties are activated with UV light and provide an on-demand, anti-bleeding seal within five seconds when applied to large blood vessels and cardiac wall defects.

“When we attached patches coated with our adhesive to the walls of a beating heart, the patches remained despite the high pressures of blood flowing through the heart and blood vessels,” said co-first author Maria N. Pereira, Ph.D., of the Division of Biomedical Engineering in BWH’s Department of Medicine.


The activation of glue with UV light promotes adhesion and locks the patch in place. 


The adhesive is also waterproof, biodegradable, elastic and biocompatible. It will be useful in reducing the invasiveness of surgical procedures as well as operating times, and it will improve heart surgery outcomes, the researchers say.

“This adhesive platform addresses all of the drawbacks of previous systems,” said co-senior study author Pedro del Nido, M.D., Chief of Cardiac Surgery at BCH. “It should provide the physician with a completely new, much simpler technology and a new paradigm for tissue reconstruction to improve the quality of life of patients following surgical procedures.”


The glue interdigitates with collagen fibers for maximal adhesion.


The research is supported by the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, a Technology Research Program grant from BCH and the National Institutes of Health. It was published in Science Translational Medicine. (doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3006557)

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