Bioadhesive design and chemical characterizations. (Credit: Cell Reports Physical Science)

An injectable biomaterial with significantly improved adhesive strength, stretchability, and toughness could enable improved surgical sealing. This chemically modified, gelatin-based hydrogel has attractive features, including rapid gelation at room temperature and tunable levels of adhesion. This custom-engineered biomaterial is ideal as a surgical wound sealant, with its controllable adhesion and injectability and its superior adherence to a variety of tissue and organ surfaces.

The researchers chose caffeic acid (CA), a catechol-containing compound found in coffee and olive oil, to increase the tissue adhesion efficacy of gelatin. They first oxidized CA to yield CA oligomers (CAO), which involve a small number of repeating catechol units. Coupling these CA derivatives to gelatin amplified chemical binding of catechol groups and boosted their adhesive function.

The engineered bioadhesive sealant had excellent adhesive strength, stretchiness, toughness, and injectability, along with the ability for rapid gelation when applied to the wound site and showed stable adhesion in physiological conditions.

The new sealant was also shown to be biocompatible. In addition, it was shown to have drug-loading and drug-release capabilities and could promote antioxidant effects beneficial to wound healing. This versatile strategy can be adapted as a powerful approach to impart strong adhesion to other biomaterials.

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