University of Sydney alumna, Nasim Annabi has led a successful collaboration between biomedical engineers in Sydney and the United States to produce MeTro: a potentially life-saving surgical glue.
Made from a human protein and activated by UV light, methacryloyl-substituted tropoelastin (MeTro) quickly seals wounds without the need for staples or sutures and can be used on the heart, lungs or other internal organs. There is potential for MeTro to be used in emergencies at the scene of an accident, stitching open wounds together to prevent blood loss. The gel remains flexible, allowing it to move and bend with the organ as tissue grows and heals. Once the wound is back to full strength, a built-in enzyme enables the gel to degrade over time, preventing the need for follow-up surgery.
Lead author of a recently published study on MeTro, Assistant Professor Nasim Annabi from Northeastern University and Harvard Medical School has been working collaboratively with Professor Anthony Weiss from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Science since 2006.
Assistant Professor Annabi started her multidisciplinary work on tropoelastin with Professor Weiss while undertaking her PhD in biomaterial synthesis with Professor Fariba Dehghani in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in Sydney.
Annabi and her team have been working on MeTro since 2013 and have published several high-impact factor papers on the use of MeTro for heart tissue regeneration. Annabi says that the challenge for researchers is understanding the needs of clinicians, designing technology that will be superior to what is already available and convincing them to invest their time during material development.
“I think we have done this successfully. The same team of surgeons at Harvard who helped us with the in vivo work are now interested to collaborating with us for the first phase of human trials,” Annabi says.
While Annabi believes that it was a pivotal career choice to stay in the USA and continue her research at Harvard, she highlighted the importance of maintaining her close collaboration with Weiss’s team at the University of Sydney
“Australia is like home for me and although it was very challenging, I learned that we always grow outside of our comfortable zone and the challenges along our way make us stronger and help us to succeed.”
Partnering with clinicians and medical professionals is something that Annabi sees as key to progressing biomedical innovation.
“The only way to make an impact is to learn how to work among different disciplines. If engineers and MDs work together, we can advance our field much faster,” she says.
With human clinical trials now in progress, Annabi says MeTro could be used in hospital operating rooms within three to five years. Elastagen Pty Ltd is commercialising the technology.