10 May, 2015
Medical adhesive products are becoming more common. Doctors use medical adhesives to help reconnect damaged tissue. They are able to stick fast and hold the tissue together. But until recently, no product had been approved for use inside the human body.
Earlier this year, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved a kind of biodegradable glue for use in surgical operations. The product, called TissueGlu, breaks down over time.
Eric Beckman teaches engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He says TissuGlu was created by accident.
Around 2001, Mr. Beckman and a dental surgeon at the university were working on a problem. They had set out to design a tissue regeneration membrane in a laboratory. In the process, they accidentally discovered a sticky, glue-like substance.
"The substance at the time in the lab was just, it was a science project. It was a laboratory material. TissueGlu is orders of magnitude more sophisticated."
TissuGlu is a chemical compound used to make plastic. It is non-toxic, meaning it is not harmful to humans. Doctors can now use it to connect big pieces of skin and tissue inside the body.
Eric Beckman says the university researchers recognized the possibility of developing and marketing TissueGlu. They knew that medical adhesives and liquid bandages were becoming increasingly popular. But nothing like that existed for use inside the body.
"Step one was to find a business team that could actually help us turn what was essentially a technology into a real product and then get it through the regulatory pathway."
In 2006, Professor Beckman temporarily left the University of Pittsburgh to set up a business, called Cohera Medical. One of the company's first employees was scientist Dottie Clower. She had worked in the Office of Enterprise Development at the University of Pittsburgh. She had advised Mr. Beckman about making his technology available to others. Now, she was given the responsibility of product development.
"I think that one of the things that made this an attractive business opportunity was in some ways the simplicity of the idea... This was simply a glue that you could use inside the body and everyone understood that. So from the perspective of being able to enroll investors in supporting the company, enroll doctors in being enthusiastic about this very new idea... This was something that nobody had in their tool kit and we had an opportunity to be the first."
Cohera Medical raised $75 million to bring TissueGlu to market. Tests showed it was strong, safe and effective. Surgeons use a hand-held device to control the even release of glue.
Professor Beckman says the Food and Drug Administration approved the glue for connecting large skin flaps in an operation that removes extra fat and skin. He says the product also helps reduce fluid buildup by holding tissues close together.
The new glue also means fewer medical problems and a quicker recovery for the patient. In Europe, TissueGlu has been approved for use in breast cancer and lymph node dissection surgeries.
Dottie Clower says this is an exciting time for the company.
"Now we have the opportunity to engage with the market, to talk with the doctors, to begin to really launch our sales and marketing effort for this great new product."
She says what this means is that they can begin to market products that can make a difference in people's lives.
I'm Bob Doughty.
This report was based on a story from VOA's Rosanne Skirble. George Grow adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in this Story
adhesive – n. a sticky substance; a product that holds two objects together; adj. causing objects to stick together
biodegradable – adj. being slowly broken down or destroyed by natural processes over time
membrane – n. an extremely thin layer of tissue
bandage(s) – n. a covering that protects part of the body