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When Dr. Pedro del Nido operates on an infant’s or small child’s heart, he closes up the surgical cuts the old fashioned way: with needle and thread.
But sewing a patch onto a heart is difficult and risky: It has to be done fast, and in a small area; the needle has to pierce healthy tissue but avoid the nearby cluster of cells that operate as the heart’s natural pacemaker. Del Nido, head of cardiac surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, and medical researchers in Boston have come up with a replacement—surgical glue that is nontoxic, biodegradable, and fast-drying even in the presence of blood, forming a bond that is strong enough to close a hole on a beating heart.