Protecting and sealing wounds typically involves the somewhat limited methods of staples, sutures, and/or adhesive dressings. Occasionally, these methods can damage and infect tissue (staples), or cause allergic reactions (adhesive dressings). Application often becomes difficult and time-consuming, particularly when trying to adhere dressings to soft and wet tissues (e.g., wounds affected by bleeding).

Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass., developed a new solution that’s based on a parasitic worm, Pomphorhynchus laevis, found in freshwater crustaceans. The worm can make its proboscis swell up, allowing it to press microneedles into the intestinal wall of its host. It thus is able to cling on by creating this strong adhesive microneedle bond.

Brigham’s research team used this principle to create a “microneedle patch” that grafts itself to the damaged area. When the microneedle tips come in contact with a wet tissue, they swell up to create a mechanical lock, which minimizes tissue damage.

Earlier this month, the advance received “Innovative Product of the Year” at the IChemE (Institution of Chemical Engineers) Awards 2013.