A team of researchers led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a device that offers a faster and less invasive way to seal tears and holes in blood vessels, using a Electrically activated glue patch applied via a minimally invasive balloon catheter. .
This device could potentially replace the need for open or keyhole surgery to repair or stitch up 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, then activated using retractable electrodes to stick it in minutes, all without making a single surgical incision.
Patented by scientists at NTU and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Voltaglue is a new type of adhesive that works in humid environments and hardens when voltage is applied to it.
The catheter device that deploys Voltaglue is jointly developed by Associate Professor Terry Steele of 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 the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science at MIT, USA.
This catheter device is Voltaglue’s first proof of concept application in a medical setting since its invention by Assoc Prof Steele in 2015.
Their research has been published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Scientific progress in April.
Assoc Prof Steele said: “The system we have 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’re opening up the possibility of not having to make surgical incisions to fix something inside – we can send in a catheter-based device to do the job. “
A new way to repair broken blood vessels
The catheter system is made up of two components:
i) The adhesive patch containing Voltaglue called ePATCH, which is applied to the balloon of the catheter,
ii) a modified catheter with retractable wires that carry electric current, called CATRE.
The team has shown in laboratory experiments on a pig’s heart that the Voltaglue patch can be administered safely and effectively in a variety of situations, including resisting the high pulsatile pressure of blood in arteries like the aorta.
The device was used to close a 3mm defect in an explanted pig aorta connected to a false heart under a continuous flow of blood of 10ml per minute.
The flexible catheter is first inserted and guided through the blood vessel. Once at the site of the rupture, the balloon is dilated so that the wound is covered by the Voltaglue patch.
A small electrical charge is sent through the two wires to activate the patch. The hardness of the glue can be adjusted by changing the amount of voltage applied to it, a process called electrocuring. This allows the patch to adapt to various types of tissue surfaces, from relatively smooth aortic tissue to the more irregular and uneven surfaces of synthetic vascular grafts.
The patch begins to harden after 20 seconds and fully hardens between 3 and 5 minutes. Upon curing, the patch effectively “sticks” the broken container together, thus sealing the two broken ends closed. The wires, deflated balloon and catheter are then removed.
In this experiment, the team left the patch on the pig’s heart for 1,000 cycles of physiological stress / strain (heartbeat), which, at 70 beats per minute, was about 15 minutes. When the aorta was examined after the experiment, it was found that the patch was still successfully sealing the space.
The first author of the article, Dr Manisha Singh, formerly of the NTU School of Materials Science and Engineering, said: “Voltaglue is different from other adhesives on the market because it is tension activated, is stable in humid environments and can stick to soft tissue, making it suitable and effective for repairing blood vessels. By combining it with existing and commercially available catheters, we have developed a new delivery mechanism that is minimally invasive, yet flexible. and adaptable. This system holds promise for a wide range of medical applications, as the suitability of the patch could be tailored to suit the patient’s needs. “
A safe way to repair tears in various organs and vessels
The catheter is designed for use in vessels 7.5 to 30mm in size, making it suitable for sealing defects in organs and vessels such as the aorta, intestine, and esophagus.
Both Voltaglue and the patch are made with bioabsorbable material, which is fully degradable and dissolves after a few weeks.
These properties make the catheter suitable for potential applications such as vascular grafting, a common surgical procedure for redirecting blood flow from one area to another, or for isolating blood flow to tumors, in order to kill them.
Commenting independently on this innovation, Associate Professor Andrew Chin, Senior Consultant, Department of Hand Microsurgery and Reconstruction, Singapore General Hospital, said: “The clinical application of this device to administration This bio-adhesive has enormous potential, not just for vascular systems, anastomoses (connection of vessels), but other soft tissue attachment that dramatically reduces the time required to complete at this present stage where suture materials are used. “
Based on their findings, the researchers predict that the catheter device could one day be used to administer patches to repair birth defects such as holes in the wall of the heart.
The research team has filed a common patent for this device, shared between MIT and NTUitive, NTU’s innovation and enterprise company.
The commercial potential of the catheter system underscores NTU’s commitment to innovation in its recently announced 2025 strategic plan, which aims to translate research into products and outcomes that improve quality of life.