A recent Northwestern University study has revealed that a possible medical adhesive could be developed using the mussels' ability to stick to surfaces under wet conditions. The sealant could repair defects in human fetal membranes.
During pregnancy, defects in the fetal membrane can lead to the leakage of amniotic fluid, resulting in premature labor or termination of the pregnancy.
lthough some defects do repair themselves naturally, no method currently exists to effectively repair those that don't.
"We tested our mussel-inspired sealant on living fetal tissue and found it was both biocompatible and effective at sealing the tiny holes -- two features essential in such a material," said Phillip B. Messersmith, who was one of the study's leaders. He is professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The study has been published online by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The fetal membrane is the structure that surrounds the developing fetus. Defects in the membrane result either from incisions during endoscopic fetal surgeries used in the treatment of some birth defects or premature and spontaneous ruptures in the fetal sac.
Messersmith and colleagues from Belgium, Switzerland and Canada punched holes three millimeters wide into human fetal tissue in vitro to replicate the tiny holes found in fetal membrane defects. They then applied their sealant as well as other sealant candidates (such as medical-grade superglues) to the holes and analyzed fetal tissue cell death for each sealant. The mussel-inspired sealant had the best results in both bonding and toxicity.
The injectable sealant is a mixture of two different solutions that, when combined, form a sealant or gel in 10 to 20 seconds. One solution is a simple synthetic polymer containing DOPA, a key amino acid found in the sophisticated proteins that are essential to mussels' ability to adhere to wet surfaces, and the other is a catalyst.