Determining the Course of Medical Research – Final Nominee

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 18, 2013

Today’s video and Q&A features our third and last finalist in the 2013 Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) BRIght Futures Prize competition, a research project from Bohdan Pomahac, MD, and Jeffrey Karp, PhD.

Stuck on You (Video)

Bohdan Pomahac, MD, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Jeffrey Karp, PhD, Division of Biomedical Engineering

What is your research project about?

There have been few recent medical innovations to seal tissues and prevent leaks after surgery. Physicians still use sutures, which are very time-consuming and difficult to place, as well as staples, which can cause tissue damage when inserted and removed. This can result in infection or extreme pain for patients.

Imagine an adhesive that could easily attach to tissue to rapidly seal wounds and connect tissues without severe damage. Suppose this adhesive could also deliver drugs to wounds to prevent infection or speed the process of healing and tissue regeneration. It could provide a completely new way for doctors to treat damaged tissue, including severely burned skin.

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Worm Helps Researchers Build a Better Medical Patch

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 6, 2013

Figure 1 - The underside of the patch has rows of tiny, cone-shaped needles.

When giving thanks to Mother Nature for the bounty that she provides, a parasitic worm may not be on your top 10 list. But a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research team has seen the beauty in a spiny-headed worm, the Pomphorhynchus laevis, and used this creature as inspiration for designing an adhesive patch that safely and strongly secures human skin grafts.

This unique worm establishes long-term residency in the intestines of fish by plunging head-first into the host’s intestinal wall and then swelling its head to create a secure hold in the intestinal tissue. Impressed by the strength and simplicity of this technique, a research team led by Jeffrey Karp, PhD, Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, developed a micro-needle patch that mimics the worm’s anchoring mechanism.

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Lizard Inspires “Ouchless” Medical Tape

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 17, 2013

Thank this little creature for helping us advance medical science.

The medical tape that physicians use today is quite good at keeping medical devices attached to the skin. Unfortunately, that same sticky tape also can be quite hard to get off – particularly when used on newborns or elderly patients – which often results in severely damaged skin.

But thanks to a little green lizard, an eight-legged arachnid, and researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), patients may soon benefit from a new type of medical tape that holds strong when you need it to, but also peels off easily.

The Institute for Pediatric Innovation established the need for such an adhesive after surveying neonatal clinicians nationwide. Then they asked Jeffrey Karp, PhD, BWH Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, and Robert Langer, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to develop it.

As they often do, Dr. Karp’s team found inspiration in nature.

Geckos are colorful lizards that have the uncanny ability to climb smooth, vertical surfaces without either slipping or getting stuck to the surface. And if you’ve ever stayed at a tropical resort, it’s not unusual to see them scoot across a ceiling. The key to this easy-on, easy-off ability appears to lie in the gecko’s uniquely designed toes, not any sort of sticky fluids. Scientists believe that the patterned rows of spatula-like ridges on their toes create an attractive force between surfaces and their feet. And when they want to remove their feet from a surface, they simply flex their toes inward (away from the surface), which reduces the force by changing the angle between the ridges and the surface, and then easily peel their feet away.

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