A team of researchers led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a device that offers a quicker and less invasive way to seal tears and holes in blood vessels, using an electrically-activated glue patch applied via a minimally invasive balloon catheter.
This device could eventually replace the need for open or keyhole surgery to patch up or stitch together internal blood vessel defects. After inserting the catheter into an appropriate blood vessel, the glue patch – nicknamed ‘Voltaglue’ – can be guided through the body to where the tear is located and then activated using retractable electrodes to glue it shut in a few minutes, all without making a single surgical cut.
Patented by NTU and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists, Voltaglue is a new type of adhesive that works in wet environments and hardens when a voltage is applied to it.
The catheter device that deploys Voltaglue is jointly developed by Associate Professor Terry Steele from the NTU School of Materials Science and Engineering, former NTU PhD student Dr Manisha Singh, now at MIT, and Associate Professor Ellen Roche from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science at MIT, USA.
Their research was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Science Advances in April. Assoc Prof Steele said: “The system that we developed is potentially the answer to the currently unmet medical need for a minimally-invasive technique to repair arteriovenous fistulas (an abnormal connection between an artery and a vein) or vascular leaks, without the need for open surgery. With Voltaglue and the catheter device, we open up the possibility of not having to make surgical incisions to patch something up inside – we can send a catheter-based device through to do the job.”
The catheter system is made up of two components: The adhesive patch containing Voltaglue called ePATCH, which is applied to the catheter’s balloon, a modified catheter with retractable wires that carry electrical current, named CATRE.
The catheter is designed for use in vessels ranging from 7.5 to 30 mm in size, making it suitable for sealing defects in organs and vessels such as the aorta, intestine, and oesophagus.
Both Voltaglue and the patch are made with bioresorbable material, which are entirely degradable and dissolve after a few weeks.
These properties make the catheter suitable for potential applications such as vascular grafting, a common surgical procedure to redirect blood flow from one area to another, or to seal off blood flow to tumours, in order to kill them off.
Giving an independent comment on this innovation, Associate Professor Andrew Chin, senior consultant in the Department of Hand and Reconstructive Microsurgery at Singapore General Hospital, said: “The clinical application of this device in delivery of bio-adhesive has tremendous potential not just for vascular anastomoses (vessel connection), but other soft tissue fixation which significantly cuts down on the time taken to complete at this current point in time where suture materials are being used.”
Drawing on their findings, the researchers foresee that the catheter device may someday be used to deliver patches to repair birth defects such as holes in the wall of the heart.
The research team has filed a joint patent for this device, shared between MIT and NTUitive, NTU’s innovation and enterprise company.