Next-Gen, Tendon-Inspired Sutures for Effective Wound Healing

Sutures have for the longest time now been used to close open wounds on the skin caused by injuries or incisions from medical procedures such as surgery. The main reason behind the use of sutures is their ability to exert a force greater than that delivered by tissue adhesives, which speeds up the natural healing process.

There are lots of different suture materials use for this reason such as bio-degradable and non-degradable plastics, metals, and even biologically derived proteins. These different materials, however, have one common characteristic that limits their functionality: they are all stiff.

Due to their nature, conventional suture materials can cause inflammation, discomfort, impaired healing, and several other post-surgical complications. These reasons have motivated researchers from Montreal to come up with innovative Tough Gel Sheathed (TGS) surgical sutures. These advanced sutures have a slippery, yet strong envelope hence imitating the connective tissues’ structure.

How effective are TGS sutures? 

After being put to the test, TGS sutures have proved to be gentler when compared to conventional sutures, which could be attributed to their frictionless nature. That’s in consideration that traditional sutures, despite being super effective when it comes to holding skin tissue together, are rough on the tissues.

The tough nature of the traditional sutures makes them more likely to slice and/or damage the skin tissues that are already fragile which results in discomfort and after-surgery issues. As per the researchers, such problems arise as a result of the mismatch between the rigid sutures and the soft tissues of the skin.

 

Sutures that draw their inspiration from the Human Tendons

A team comprised of participants from the McGill University and the INRS Énergie Matériaux Telecommunications Research Centre resolved to tackle the challenges associated with traditional sutures. They did that through the use of a new technology that is inspired by the endotenon sheath in the human body.

Despite having a slippery surface that reduces friction with surrounding tissues, the endotenon sheath is tough and strong, as a result of having a double-network structure. It keeps the collagen fibers together while getting its strength from the elastin network, according to Zhenwei Ma, a Ph.D. student at McGill University.  

Other than being responsible for reducing friction, the endotenon sheath is also supposed to deliver materials required during the repair of tissues in a tendon injury. In a similar manner, the Tough Gel Sheathed sutures are capable of being engineered to deliver personalized medicine as per the patient’s needs.

 

Next-generation sutures 

The TGS sutures are made of a commercial braided suture enclosed in a gel envelope to mimic the design of the endotenon sheath. These sutures can be fabricated up to a length of 15cm, not to mention that they can also be freeze-dried to be stored for long periods. 

Having been used on porcine skin and a rat model, these sutures have been proved to be capable of use in standard surgical stitches as well as knots, without risk of infection.

 

Personalized wound treatment 

TGS sutures are not only beneficial as an effective solution to closing up wounds. They are also re-designable for use in personalized wound treatment. The researchers were able to demonstrate this ability by loading the sutures with pH-sensing microparticles, antibacterial compounds, drugs, and fluorescent nanoparticles meant for drug delivery, wound bed monitoring, anti-infection, and bioimaging applications.

Li, an expert in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and a Canada Research Chair in Musculoskeletal health said the team was convinced that the TGS technology can come in handy in wound management. They believe that the tech could be used in preventing infections, delivering drugs, and even monitoring wounds when used alongside infrared imaging. 

Li believes that the application of sutures in monitoring wounds so as to adjust the treatment strategy for more effective healing would be an exciting field to explore.

  

What does the future hold?

The future of technology-based wound-stitching is a promising one, no doubt about that. But that’s not where it all ends. What if someone told you that there is a magnetically controlled robotic thread that can deliver clot-reducing blockages through the blood vessels in the brain? Seems like a futuristic procedure in the world of medicine, right? Stay tuned to learn more about that and other technologies that may totally change the medical world.