Engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed an adhesive hydrogel for preventing fibrosis — the thickening, scarring or formation of tissue — which can disrupt the functioning of devices like pacemakers.

Specifically, the adhesive anti-fibrotic hydrogel protects such devices by preventing the immune system from recognizing and subsequently attacking it and avoiding fibrosis.

Further, the hydrogel could also potentially be used to deliver drugs and other medical devices — for instance, the hydrogel could possibly be a depot of islet cells that secrete insulin for treating Type 1 diabetes.

“The adhesive anti-fibrotic mechanism is simple and general, we believe it could be suitable for pacemakers for children,” the researchers added.

To develop the hydrogel, the team cross-linked polymers or hydrogels that can bind the devices to tissue where they prevent the immune system from attacking it. In the lab, the team coated polyurethane devices with adhesives and installed them in the lungs and hearts of rats.

The devices were eventually removed after a few weeks from the rats, and the team found that fibrosis was not present. Even the wires of the epicardial pacemaker, which were coated in the adhesive anti-fibrotic, did not demonstrate any signs of fibrosis.

An article detailing the findings, “Adhesive anti-fibrotic interfaces on diverse organs,” appears in the journal Nature.

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