Story at a glance

  • Sutures are used to help close cuts and wounds and start the healing process.
  • Because of the materials it is made of, sutures can be too stiff and potentially damage soft tissue.
  • A research team has developed a new biogel material used to coat the suture material that reduces friction and could have many uses.

Sutures are important tools for surgeons and medical professionals to help close wounds and start the healing process in patients. One issue with currently available sutures is that it can damage soft tissue if it is too stiff. A group of researchers are developing a next generation type of sutures that are inspired by human tendons.

The scientists focused on designing sutures that can do the job of holding a cut closed but are softer and so would not damage the soft tissue. They published their paper in Science Advances detailing a tough biogel sheath that can be applied to fiber-based materials. 

“Our design is inspired by the human body, the endotenon sheath, which is both tough and strong due to its double-network structure. It binds collagen fibers together while its elastin network strengthens it,” says first author of the paper Zhenwei Ma, who is a PhD student under the supervision of Assistant Professor Jianyu Li at McGill University, in a press release.


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The gel sheath has a slippery surface that reduces friction. These tough gel sheathed sutures can be engineered to deliver personalized medication, according to the researchers. There’s also the potential to build in wound monitoring and near-infrared imaging.

Although this is currently a proof of concept and has not been tested yet, the researchers are hopeful for its uses and potential to improve medical practices. “This technology provides a versatile tool for advanced wound management. We believe it could be used to deliver drugs, prevent infections, or even monitor wounds with near-infrared imaging,” says Li of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “The ability to monitor wounds locally and adjust the treatment strategy for better healing is an exciting direction to explore.”


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Published on Apr 18, 2021