[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
The common method of closing a surgical incision is simply to stitch the patient up. There are some issues, though. Good stitching can be challenging, and a poor job can lead to tissue warping. Synthetic adhesives have been tried instead of sutures, but they also have problems. So researchers at North Carolina State University have turned to two totally unrelated objects—mussels and inkjet printers. They published their research in the April edition of the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research B.
Mussels attach themselves to rocks in the ocean with a biodegradable glue. Scientists extracted the sticky proteins and made them even stickier by adding iron. Then the scientists thought, we need a precise way to add iron and then apply the glue. The answer: piezoelectric inkjet printers. They spit out droplets at a time in a precise fashion without heating up. So researchers used inkjet technology to carefully mix the mussel solution and iron together and then deposit the glue in a chosen design. They say they still have work to do to make the solution even stickier. But they imagine a future small hand-held printer-like system that will stitch you up with biodegradable glue deposited in a perfect line.