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 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. When researchers put the TGS sutures to the test, they found the nearly frictionless gel surface mitigated the damage typically caused by traditional sutures.
Conventional sutures hold wounds together until healing is complete, but are far from ideal for tissue repair. The rough fibers can slice and damage already fragile tissues, leading to discomfort and post-surgery complications.
According to the researchers from McGill University and the INRS Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Research Centre, part of the problem lies in the mismatch between our soft tissues and the rigid sutures that rub against contacting tissue.
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 Ph.D. student under the supervision of Assistant Professor Jianyu Li at McGill University.
The endotenon sheath forms a slippery surface to reduce friction with surrounding tissues in joints and 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, according to the researchers.
“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.