Polyps typically appear as small bumps protruding from tissue lining which could be found in different parts of the body, most commonly in the colon. When left untreated, these could mutate and become cancerous.
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So far, the method of removing polyps involves injecting a saline solution under the tissue lining making the polyp rise so that it would be easier to extract. However, this method bears risks as the cushion formed under the polyp doesn’t last long. So researchers at MIT developed a new material which would be more stable and make it easier to safely remove the polyp.
This procedure carries some risk of tearing the lining of the colon, which is why doctors usually inject saline into the area just below the lining, called the submucosal space, to lift the polyp away from the surface of the colon.
To overcome that, the MIT team decided to create a shear-thinning gel. These materials are semisolid gels under normal conditions, but when force is applied to them, their viscosity decreases and they flow more easily. This means that the material can be easily injected through a narrow needle, then turn back into a solid gel once it exits into the colon tissue.
(Image credit: Yan Pang, Jinyao Liu et al./MIT)