When a developing fetus needs surgery, one of the biggest risks surgeons need to overcome is rupture of the membrane that protects the amniotic sac. The membrane does not heal in the way other tissues heal, and sutures do not work well. Now researchers at the University of California are testing an adhesive that mimics the proteins that the common mussel uses to stick to rocks as a possible solution to the problem.
The adhesive mussels produce works in wet environments, making it perfect for surgical applications. The ‘foot’ of a mussel contains a “byssal” gland that secretes a combination of proteins that act as a water-proof adhesive. After the protein cocktail has been secreted, it quickly anchors onto the substrate, becomes tacky and then sets into a network of fine threads.
Surgeons will use a needle to create a space between the wall of the uterus and the fetal membrane, and the adhesive will be injected into this area, curing rapidly. Once this has occurred, surgeons will be able to breach the amniotic sac safely through the area that has been treated with the adhesive. Preliminary research findings have been published in the Journal “Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials”.