Western University bioengineer Kibret Mequanint and his international collaborators have discovered a new use for snake venom: a ‘superglue’ of body tissue that can stop life-threatening bleeding in seconds.
Over the past 20 years, Mequanint has developed a number of medical devices based on biomaterials and therapeutic technologies – some of which are licensed to medical companies or are in advanced stages of preclinical testing.
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His latest collaborative research finding is based on a blood-clotting enzyme called reptilase or batroxobin found in the venom of jararacas snakes, which are among the most venomous snakes in South America.
Taking advantage of this clotting property, Mequanint and the international research team have developed a body tissue adhesive that incorporates the special enzyme into a modified gelatin that can be packaged in a small tube for easy and potentially life-saving application.
During trauma, injuries and emergency bleeding, this ‘superglue’ can be applied by simply squeezing the tube and shining visible light, such as a laser pointer, for a few seconds. Even a smartphone flashlight can be used.
Compared to clinical fibrin glue, considered the industry gold standard for clinical and field surgeons, the new tissue sealant has 10 times the adhesive strength to resist peeling or washout due to bleeding. Blood clotting time is also much shorter, halved from 90 seconds for fibrin glue to 45 seconds for the new snake venom ‘superglue’.
This new biotechnology translates to less blood loss and more rescue. The super-sealant was tested on models for deep cuts of skin, ruptured aortas and severely injured livers – all considered severe bleeding situations.
“We anticipate that this ‘superglue’ fabric will be used to save lives on the battlefield, or other accidental trauma such as car accidents,” said Mequanint. “The applicator easily fits into first aid kits too.” In addition, the new snake venom ‘super glue’ can be used for sutureless surgical wound closures.
The bioadhesive hemostatic gel loaded with visible light crosslinked snake extract was published this week in the journal Science Advances. For the discovery, Mequanint collaborated with bioengineers, scientists and physicians from the University of Manitoba and the Army Medical University in Chongqing, China. “The next phase of the ongoing study is to translate the discovery of the ‘superglue’ from tissue to the clinic,” said Mequanint.
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