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Light-Activated Glue Can Heal Broken Hearts

A biocompatible glue seals ruptures in the beating heart of a pig

1 min read
Light-Activated Glue Can Heal Broken Hearts

Patching up holes in blood vessels and the heart's walls may become easier with a new light-activated glue. This adhesive, described in the journal Science Translational Medicine, sets in seconds when exposed to UV light. 

The new adhesive could offer an alternative to surgeons who are dissatisfied with current methods for repairing cardiac fissures, all of which have drawbacks. The sutures and staples often used can damage fragile tissue, and they don't immediately form a watertight seal. What's more, most existing surgical glues don't adhere well to wet tissue and can't withstand the pressure that a beating heart exerts on the heart chambers' walls and blood vessels; some are even rendered ineffectual if they react chemically with blood.   

The researchers who devised the new material write that they were inspired by nature: They studied the viscous secretions of slugs and sandcastle worms to determine how they were able to form stable bonds underwater. Eventually they came up with a nontoxic polymer that doesn't mix with water, sets quickly when exposed to UV light, and remains elastic so that it can flex with the cardiac tissue. They demonstrated the effectiveness of their glue by coating patches with the glue and using them to mend holes in four pigs' carotid arteries and heart chamber walls—while the hearts were still beating. 

While more animal studies are necessary before the adhesive can be tried out in humans, the researchers say their material could lead to more minimally invasive cardiac surgeries, since both the glue and the light can be delivered by thin tools. See below for an artist's rendering of an in vivo procedure. 

Images: Randal McKensie

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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