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Surgical sutures inspired by human tendons

News

Next-generation sutures can deliver drugs, prevent infections, and monitor wounds
Published: 7Apr2021

Sutures are used to close wounds and speed up the natural healing process, but they can also complicate matters by causing damage to soft tissues with their stiff fibers. To remedy the problem, researchers from Montreal have developed innovative tough gel sheathed (TGS) sutures inspired by the human tendon.

These next-generation sutures contain a slippery, yet tough gel envelope, imitating the structure of soft connective tissues. In putting the TGS sutures to the test, the researchers found that the nearly frictionless gel surface mitigated the damage typically caused by traditional sutures.

Conventional sutures have been around for centuries and are used to hold wounds together until the healing process is complete. But they are far from ideal for tissue repair. The rough fibers can slice and damage already fragile tissues, leading to discomfort and post-surgery complications.

Part of the problem lies in the mismatch between our soft tissues and the rigid sutures that rub against contacting tissue, say the researchers from McGill University and the INRS Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Research Centre.

Inspired by the tendon

To tackle the problem, the team developed a new technology that mimics the mechanics of tendons. “Our design is inspired by the human body, the endotenon sheath, which is both tough and strong due to its double-network structure. It binds collagen fibers together while its elastin network strengthens it,” says lead author Zhenwei Ma, a PhD student under the supervision of Assistant Professor Jianyu Li at McGill University.

The endotenon sheath not only forms a slippery surface to reduce friction with surrounding tissues in joints, but it also delivers necessary materials for tissue repair in a tendon injury. In the same way, TGS sutures can be engineered to provide personalized medicine based on a patient’s needs, say the researchers.

Personalized wound treatment

“This technology provides a versatile tool for advanced wound management. We believe it could be used to deliver drugs, prevent infections, or even monitor wounds with near-infrared imaging,” says Li of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

“The ability to monitor wounds locally and adjust the treatment strategy for better healing is an exciting direction to explore,” says Li, who is also a Canada Research Chair in Biomaterials and Musculoskeletal Health.

About this study

“Bioinspired tough gel sheath for robust and versatile surface functionalization” by Zhenwei Ma, Zhen Yang, Qiman Gao, Guangyu Bao, Amin Valiei, Fan Yang, Ran Huo, Chen Wang, Guolong Song, Dongling Ma, Zu-Hua Gao, and Jianyu Li was published in Science Advances.

DOI: http://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abc3012


About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,200 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,800 international students making up 31% of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 19% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

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