Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Techology say they have new insights into how a glue-like material might be tailored to work with specific tissues and organs. The authors of the paper, published online this summer, think that the current surgical sealants used to repair wounds have not reached their true potential. “The structure, surface properties and internal architecture of different organs can vary dramatically, and the idea that one material is ideal for all tissues and applications is simplistic,” says Elazer Edelman, the lead investigator on the paper (Adv. Mater., doi:10.1002/adma.200900340; 2009).

Edelman notes that even organs that reside in the same body cavity are subject to varying mechanical forces, have different surface chemistry, are exposed to different pH and react to sealants in different manners. In the new research, his group examined the performance of a sealant composed of polyethylene glycol and dextran aldehyde when applied to heart, lung, liver and duodenum tissues from rats. On the basis of this, they propose ways to modify the sealant's reactivity with various tissues.

Zaverio Ruggeri of the Scripps Research Institute in California says that, although the proposed sealant has not yet been shown to be superior to currently available sealants, the concept of tissue specificity addressed in this study is “stimulating” and new. “Surgeons might need a whole collection of different glues depending on the organs involved in the operation,” he adds.