Our Guest Blogger, Mariella Moon, is a tech blogger by professional training and a biologist by education. She wanted to share the latest medical innovations with the readers of InventorSpot.com.
Here's her article:
* * * * *Image: DailyMail.co.uk
I always maintain that looking at the animal kingdom could provide answers to a variety of issues that plagues us, humans. Indeed, it's not only me who thinks this way. Robert Langer and Jeff Karp, faculty members of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, came up with their own invention inspired by the foot of a gecko.
Said invention aims to become a fixture in operating rooms and, in time, replace surgical sutures and staples. Specifically speaking, it's a bandage which borrows the traits of a gecko's foot, designed to patch up internal injuries as well as surgical wounds. The premise is simple: the gecko's foot padding contains millions of flexible nanopillars, allowing them to crawl on walls; this invention draws parallels with that gecko characteristic, except that it's designed to cling on human tissues instead.
The bandage is made of a biodegradable elastomer named "biorubber", a substance created specifically for this purpose. By utilizing micropatterning technology, hills and valleys similar to the flexible nanopillars exhibited by geckos are formed on the bandage surface in a nanoscale dimension. This, however, is not enough for the bandage to stick on wet surfaces like a human's innards. For it to be able to become a viable bandage for internal injuries, it is also layered with a coating of biocompatible dextran glue.
When fully developed, this could be used for a variety of purposes such as resealing the intestine subsequent to gastric bypass surgery or removal of a diseased segment, as well as to patch holes which are, say, caused by ulcer. Since it can be folded, it could also be used for keyhole surgeries which make stitching a difficult task. And, since this bandage is biodegradable, there's no need for another surgery to remove it. This aspect of the invention could even be taken advantage of -- one can infuse the bandage with drugs which would then be released as the bandage dissolves.
There have been numerous inventions inspired by the gecko's foot before. However, the challenge of creating this new medical tool is that the scientists had to find a way for it to be able to stick on a wet surface, to ensure that it doesn't cause inflammation, that it degrades over time, and that it's elastic enough to conform to bodily tissues. The MIT scientists pass with flying colors, and we're given the hope that it would help save lives in the near future.
Sources: Daily Mail, MIT and Technology Review