The substance, called MeTro, is injected directly on the wound and then sealed with UV light. (Image: University of Sydney)

An innovative surgical glue developed by researchers from the United States and Australia seals wounds quickly and without the need for staples or stitches. The squirtable substance could eventually be used in surgeries and in emergency situations, though it still needs to be tested on humans.

It’s called MeTro, and it was developed by researchers from the University of Sydney, Harvard Medical School, and Northeastern University. Its elastic qualities make it ideal for treating wounds that are regularly called upon to expand and contract, and where wounds are at risk of re-opening. The researchers that developed the compound say it could be used to treat both external and internal tissues, including skin, heart, lungs, and arteries.

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In tests, MeTro was successfully used to seal incisions in the arteries and lungs of rodents, and in the lungs of pigs. In all cases, the substance worked without need for sutures or staples. The details of this work have been published in Science Translational Medicine.

To develop the injectable compound, natural elastic proteins—inspired by the human protein tropoelastin—were intermixed with a light sensitive sealant material. After applying it to a wound, a continual stream of UV light will set the material in about a minute. MeTro is also equipped with a built-in degrading enzyme, which can be adjusted to determine how long the sealant lasts, which can be anywhere from a few hours through to months depending on nature of the injury. The researchers compared it to silicone sealants that are typically used around bathroom and kitchen tiles.

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“When you watch MeTro, you can see it act like a liquid, filling the gaps and conforming to the shape of the wound,” explained study co-author Anthony Weiss in a statement. “It responds well biologically, and interfaces closely with human tissue to promote healing. The gel is easily stored and can be squirted directly onto a wound or cavity.”

In terms of real world applications, MeTro could be used in surgeries, war zones, or during emergencies. The next step in the process is to test the stuff on humans to make sure it’s safe and effective.

[Science Translational Medicine]