“Little” Papi, a bulldog named after the Boston Red Sox’s David “Big Papi” Ortiz, may not share his namesake’s home run record, but a grand slam surgery using technology developed by BWH researchers has made life a lot more enjoyable for the 10-year-old pup from Boston.
Papi had undergone three unsuccessful procedures to treat a large hole in his mouth leading to his nasal cavity. Known as an oral nasal fistula, the condition had become painful and difficult to treat, according to William Rosenblad, DVM, Papi’s dental surgeon at the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center in Jamaica Plain.
But thanks to the combined efforts of Rosenblad, the lab of BWH bioengineer Jeff Karp, PhD, and a newly engineered tissue glue produced by the lab, Papi is doing well today.
“Our team turns to nature for inspiration for creating new biomaterials and devices, and we most often think about opportunities for treating human diseases and conditions,” Karp said. “We are truly delighted and inspired that the materials developed in our lab may be able to help alleviate pain in pets like Papi, as well. I am a huge dog lover, so this has been quite a meaningful experience for me and the whole team.”
Karp and his team engineered a tissue glue that, when activated by light, becomes strong and elastic enough to bind tissue together. In the future, the team plans to use the glue to repair cardiac defects without the need for open heart surgery and to repair defects in blood vessels, bone and intestinal tissue.
After hearing Karp present on his work to a group of clinicians and veterinarians at a recent event at Boston’s New England Aquarium, Rosenblad immediately thought of an application for his four-legged patients and approached Karp about collaborating.
Papi’s latest surgery, in which Rosenblad used Karp’s tissue glue, has been a success.
More than 10 weeks out from the procedure, Papi is recovering smoothly.
Yuhan Lee, a post-doctoral fellow in Karp’s lab, helped engineer the glue that was used to treat Papi and has been inspired by the treatment’s success.
“Seeing how well Papi was doing a few weeks after the surgery has been the most exciting moment of my career,” said Lee.
Gecko Biomedical, a company co-founded by Karp, will test the tissue glue in humans later this year to assess its potential for repairing arteries and veins.
“We all strive to make a difference through our research,” Karp said. “It was amazing to collaborate with Dr. Rosenblad to help Papi. My new goal now is to improve quality of life for both patients and pets.”