New 'smart sutures' can deliver drugs and detect inflammation


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Mar 27, 2023

New 'smart sutures' can deliver drugs and detect inflammation

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In a major medical innovation, MIT researchers have developed "smart" sutures that can perform multiple tasks, including holding the tissue in place, detecting inflammation, and delivering drugs.

The catgut suture, which was first used by the ancient Romans thousands of years ago, inspired the development of this new surgical suture.

Catgut is a natural fiber derived from animal tissue that dissolves naturally in 90 days. The new suture follows in similar footsteps but with some modern medicinal twists.

Catgut sutures as the name may suggest are not obtained from cats but rather are made from the tissue of cows, sheep, or goats. These animal-derived sutures form strong knots that dissolve naturally after a certain amount of time.

With this idea, the goal was to develop a strong and absorbable material suture with additional functions such as sensing and drug delivery.

The new suture was made from pig tissues. The tissue was "decellularized," according to the study, which is a process that removes cellular material using various components such as detergents. This lengthy procedure results in a cell-free material known as "De-gut."

After the material was obtained, this new suture prototype was coated with hydrogels combined with sensors, drugs, or even cells to deliver therapeutic molecules to the surgical site.

Microparticles coated with peptides were used to create the sensors. These microparticles can detect inflammation-related enzymes in tissue.

"What we have is a suture that is bioderived and modified with a hydrogel coating capable of being a reservoir for sensors for inflammation, or for drugs such as monoclonal antibodies to treat inflammation. Remarkably, the coating also has the capacity to retain cells that are viable for a prolonged period," said Giovanni Traverso, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the senior author of the study, in an official statement.

This new suture application may be especially beneficial for Crohn's disease patients who have had a portion of their intestine removed during surgery.

The two ends of the intestine that are left behind after one section is removed require tight resealing in this treatment. This suture accomplishes the goal of tightly holding the tissues while also detecting inflammation to monitor the healing of the resealed intestines.

Furthermore, smart sutures could be applied to other surgical cuts and wounds.

The team is now testing additional potential applications of this modern suture. Simultaneously, they will work to amplify the manufacturing process for these new sutures.

The results have been reported in the journal Matter.