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Adhesive coatings can prevent scarring around medical implants

Caption:MIT engineers found a way to eliminate the buildup of scar tissue around implantable devices, by coating them with a hydrogel adhesive. The material binds the device to tissue and prevents the immune system from attacking the device.

When medical devices such as pacemakers are implanted in the body, they usually provoke an immune response that leads to buildup of scar tissue around the implant. This scarring, known as fibrosis, can interfere with the devices’ function and may require them to be removed.

In an advance that could prevent that kind of device failure, MIT engineers have found a simple and general way to eliminate fibrosis by coating devices with a hydrogel adhesive. This adhesive binds the devices to tissue and prevents the immune system from attacking it.

“The dream of many research groups and companies is to implant something into the body that over the long term the body will not see, and the device can provide therapeutic or diagnostic functionality. Now we have such an ‘invisibility cloak,’ and this is very general: There’s no need for a drug, no need for a special polymer,” says Xuanhe Zhao, an MIT professor of mechanical engineering and of civil and environmental engineering.

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