New gel may prevent scarring after cardiac surgery

A new solution may help prevent deadly adhesions that follow heart surgeries, new research shows.

Researchers have created a new gel to apply to damaged heart tissue that may prevent the formation of fibrous bands. File Photo by hywards/Shutterstock

Researchers have created a new gel to apply to damaged heart tissue that may prevent the formation of fibrous bands, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature Biomedical Engineering. Those formations, or adhesions, can bind internal organs and tissues that can lead to death.

“The difference between what we saw after using the gel and what we normally see after surgery was drastic,” Joseph Woo, a researcher at Stanford University and study author, said in a news release.

About 95 percent of surgeries result in adhesions, some of which can cause deadly blockages by contorting and squeezing the intestines. Other adhesions can lead to infertility.


The researchers developed a polymer-nanoparticle hydrogel therapy called PNP 1:10. They sprayed it onto the hearts of lab rats to decrease tissue damage after heart surgery. After a few weeks, they found no adhesions on the rat’s heart tissue.

The discovery prompted researchers to launch a study where they developed four more spray gels, each with a distinct array of properties.

After inducing heart attacks in lab rats, they sprayed one of the five gels on each of the animal’s damaged hearts. Then they sprayed store-bought adhesives on two more rats with injured hearts, while the last animal received no treatment at all.


Rats treated with two of the newly created gels developed medium to thick adhesions, and those treated with other two gels developed slight adhesions. The rat treated with PNP 1:10, however, was adhesion-free. In addition, the rats showed no side-effects from the gel treatment.

The researchers then tested PNP 1:10 on sheep hearts and got similar results.

“The gel doesn’t prevent tissues from moving around,” said Eric Appel, a researcher at Stanford University and study author. “It simply provides a physical barrier to keep them from sticking to each other.”

ByTauren Dyson