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Mussel-Based Glue May Make Surgery Safer

The natural medical adhesive might be applied using inkjet printer technology, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, March 18 (HealthDay News) -- Using such unlikely partners as marine mussels and printer inkjet technology, researchers say they've come up with medical adhesives that can be used with greater precision, promote faster recovery and reduce scarring.

Currently, sutures and synthetic adhesives are used to join tissue together after a patient has surgery, a team at North Carolina State University explained. But sutures can cause complications such as discomfort, infection and inflammation. According to background information in the study, there are also concerns about the toxicological and environmental effects of synthetic medical adhesives. Finally, these adhesives don't break down in the body and may cause inflammation, tissue damage and other problems, the researchers said.

However, the NC State team noted that adhesive proteins found in the glue of marine mussels are both non-toxic and biodegradable. These natural proteins can be placed in solution and applied, using inkjet technology, to create customized medical adhesives with a variety of uses.

For example, this method may "significantly improve wound repair in eye surgery, wound closure and fracture fixation," study co-author Dr. Roger Narayan, an associate professor in the joint biomedical engineering department, said in a university news release.

"This is an improved way of joining tissues, because the use of the inkjet technology gives you greater control over the placement of the adhesive. This helps ensure that the tissues are joined together in just the right spot, forming a better bond that leads to improved healing and less scarring," Narayan said.

The study is to be published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research B in April.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers advice about incision care.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: North Carolina State University, news release, March 18, 2009

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