With help from UV light, a catheter device could provide a way to repair defects in hearts and other organs without surgery. The device has already been used successfully in animal studies, and was developed jointly by researchers from Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard University, and Brigham and Women's Hospital. "In addition to avoiding open-heart surgery, this method avoids suturing into the heart tissue, because we're just gluing something to it," said Dr. Pedro del Nido, chief of cardiac surgery at Boston Children's Hospital. The catheter is inserted through a vein in the neck or groin and directed to the area of the defect. Once the catheter is in place, the clinician opens two positioning balloons: one around the front end of the catheter, passing through the hole, and one on the other side of the organ wall. The clinician then deploys the patch and turns on the catheter's UV light. The light reflects off of the balloon's shiny interior and activates the patch's adhesive coating. As the glue cures, pressure from the balloons secures the patch it in place. Finally, both balloons are deflated, and the catheter is withdrawn. Over time, tissue grows over the patch, and it dissolves. "This really is a completely new platform for closing wounds or holes anywhere in the body," said Harvard professor Conor Walsh. "The device is a minimally invasive way to deliver a patch and then activate it using UV light, all within a matter of five minutes and in an atraumatic way that doesn't require a separate incision." Catheterizations are preferable to open-heart surgery because they don't require stopping the heart, putting the patient on bypass and cutting into the heart. The biodegradable patch presents its own advantage. While medical devices that remain in the body may be jostled out of place or fail to cover the hole as the body grows, the patch helps tissue create its own closure. The rate at which the patch biodegrades can be slowed or accelerated depending on how quickly the surrounding tissue grows over it. Further studies will reveal the appropriate lengths of time for different circumstances, the researchers said. The adhesive was developed in the lab of Jeff Karp, a bioengineer at Brigham and Women's Hospital. The French company Gecko Biomedical, of which Karp is a founder, plans to test the adhesive in humans later this year. The research was published in Science Translational Medicine (doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa2406).