The Spray-On Surgical Film That Could Make Sutures Redundant

Surgeries, major or minor, virtually always require sutures—but they can prove uncomfortable and painful, or even become infected. Now, a spray-on film of biodegradable polymer nanofibers could replace them for good.

Researchers from the University of Maryland have developed a technique to apply a thin film of biodegradable material which can conform to the skin, holding surgical incisions shut and protecting them from the outside world. In fact, the team decided to use a commercial airbrush—usually used for paint—to apply the material, but then had to then work out how to make a suitable liquid that could be sprayed to form a protective layer.

They settled on biodegradable polymer called poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid)—PLGA to its buddies and those who prefer their tongues untwisted—adding acetone to the mix to make it sprayable. A little tinkering led them to a ratio of the two that could reliably form mats of fibers of diameter 370 nanometers. In case you were wondering, the acetone evaporates as the fiber travels through the air, and is gone by the time it lands on the surface it's aimed at.

The resulting films have been used to successfully seal diaphragm hernias and surgical incisions in the the lung, intestine, and liver of a pig, and also decay away to nothing over a 42-day period. The results are published in ACS Macro Letters. The researchers are currently working on further safety studies, and hope to enter clinical trials with the technique soon. With any luck, you'll never need another suture again. [ACS Macro Letters via Chemical & Engineering News]