The gel is based on a type of material known as methacryloyl-substituted tropoelastin (or MeTro for short), which is a hybrid elastic protein that can be applied to external and internal wounds to encourage healing and seal them up completely. Most amazingly, while it can rapidly seal up wounds, it still allows the skin or organ it's been applied to to naturally expand or relax, thereby reducing the risk of further complications.
According to Nasim Annabi, one of the researchers from Boston's Northeastern University, "the beauty of the MeTro formulation is that, as soon as it comes in contact with tissue surfaces, it solidifies into a gel-like phase without running away."
Once it has been applied, the sealant is then placed under UV light to keep it in place. Annabi explains that they "then further stabilize it by curing it on-site with a short light-mediated crosslinking treatment. This allows the sealant to be very accurately placed and to tightly bond and interlock with structures on the tissue surface."
Compared to wounds treated with staples or stitches, ones treated with MeTro can take less than half the time to fully heal, and if further surgery is required, the researchers claim that MeTro is also able to simplify such a procedure. Due to a degrading enzyme found within the glue, it can be modified to last for varying amounts of time (a certain amount of hours or even months), depending on the kind of injury that has been sustained.
In emergencies where time is of the essence, MeTro could make a tremendous difference in the way in which wounds or lung punctures are dealt with. In fact, they say that it works in a very similar way to how silicone sealants for bathroom or kitchen tiles work.
Anthony Weiss, one of the researchers from the University of Sydney says that "when you watch MeTro, you can see it act like a liquid, filling the gaps and conforming to the shape of the wound. The potential applications are powerful – from treating serious internal wounds at emergency sites such as following car accidents and in war zones, as well as improving hospital surgeries."
The team behind the gel's creation say that it's very simple to apply, can be stored very easily, and also works closely with the human body's natural tissue when healing wounds. In addition to this, it eventually degrades without leaving any traces of toxic chemicals inside the body.
So far, this gel has never been used on any humans, but it has been very successful when applied to pig lungs, as well as to rodent lungs and arteries. If trials keep going smoothly, then the gel may soon end up as a commercial product, with a lot of potential to become an essential part of every first aid kit.
"We have shown MeTro works in a range of different settings and solves problems other available sealants can't," says Weiss. "We're now ready to transfer our research into testing on people. I hope MeTro will soon be used in the clinic, saving human lives."