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Liquid Implants for Hernia Repair
November 2, 2015   
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A team of scientists from two universities in the northwestern city of Szczecin has developed an unprecedented, minimally invasive method for treating hernias. Instead of commonly used surgical meshes, the method uses liquid implants from a special material based on fatty acids. This makes it possible to perform the operation laparoscopically—without large surgical incisions—and shorten it to a half hour. The new material has been patented and tests conducted on animals have yielded promising results.

A hernia is a pathological bulging of a bodily cavity, usually the abdomen, but also the groin, thigh or belly button, through a hole in the lining. Such a bulge usually forms as a result of a sudden, considerable physical exertion. Many hernias are post-operative hernias that are a complication of various medical procedures.

About 900,000 hernia operations are performed in the European Union every year. Treatment is usually based on draining the contents of the hernia sac into the peritoneal cavity. This stage is common to all types of operations for the condition. What differs is the way in which the so-called hernia gates are closed. There are two types of procedure—one using the patient’s own tissue and one using hernia meshes of different shapes and made from different materials. Most often herniation is treated by sewing a surgical mesh from polypropylene into the weakened tissue. The weakened fragment of the body can be regenerated on such a scaffolding.

Progress in treating such problems is based on the reduction of extensive surgery in favor of laparoscopic procedures. During an operation performed with a minimal incision, a coiled mesh is introduced and unfolded inside the patient’s body.

Labib Zair, a surgeon from the Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin, aided by Mirosława El Fray, a professor at the West Pomeranian University of Technology, has undertaken to make the procedure less difficult for doctors. For this purpose the scientists needed a fluid that, after being injected into the patient’s body, would turn into a “sponge” and become integrated into the damaged tissue. El Fray decided that the substance should be hardened with ultraviolet light after being introduced into the patient’s body. Looking for the right chemical compounds, the scientists decided to use special materials based on fatty acids. The materials have been patented and are waiting to go commercial.

The Szczecin scientists say the liquid implants, hardened with light, will make it possible to reduce the duration of the procedure to a half hour from up to 2 hours at the moment. The operation would leave a much smaller scar and the patient would not have to stay in the hospital overnight. The implant would eventually be absorbed, and the surgical liquid could be enriched with antibacterial agents. Dr. Zair estimates that the cost of producing one implant is around zl.5, while a polypropylene surgical mesh costs from zl.40 to several hundred zlotys.

The compound has been tested on rabbits at the General and Transplantation Surgery Clinic of the Pomeranian Medical University. The method developed by the scientists was used to treat small hernias in animals. The scientists injected an implant and shaped it with the help of light. During a 28-day observation period, the implants were not rejected nor were there any inflammatory or allergic reactions observed. The implant stimulated the formation of connective tissue, while the material itself was absorbed.

The scientists say they plan to go commercial with the implant through a spin-out company. Another Szczecin university, the West Pomeranian University of Technology, will contribute patent rights and a license to the new company to enable it produce such implants for hernia-related purposes and to conduct further research into the treatment of hernias. An analysis by an external company shows that the cost of putting the invention out on the market is estimated at zl.5 million. These are mainly the costs of conducting clinical trials involving humans.
Karolina Olszewska
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