Structural heteropolysaccharides as air-tight sealants of the human pleura

J Biomed Mater Res B Appl Biomater. 2019 Apr;107(3):799-806. doi: 10.1002/jbm.b.34175. Epub 2018 Sep 25.


Pulmonary "air leaks," typically the result of pleural injury caused by lung surgery or chest trauma, result in the accumulation of air in the pleural space (pneumothorax). Air leaks are a major source of morbidity and prolonged hospitalization after pulmonary surgery. Previous work has demonstrated structural heteropolysaccharide (pectin) binding to the mouse pleural glycocalyx. The similar lectin-binding characteristics and ultrastructural features of the human and mouse pleural glycocalyx suggested the potential application of these polymers in humans. To investigate the utility of pectin-based polymers, we developed a simulacrum using freshly obtained human pleura. Pressure-decay leak testing was performed with an inflation maneuver that involved a 3 s ramp to a 3 s plateau pressure; the inflation was completely abrogated after needle perforation of the pleura. Using nonbiologic materials, pressure-decay leak testing demonstrated an exponential decay with a plateau phase in materials with a Young's modulus less than 5. In human pleural testing, the simulacrum was used to test the sealant function of four mixtures of pectin-based polymers. A 50% high-methoxyl pectin and 50% carboxymethylcellulose mixture demonstrated no sealant failures at transpleural pressures of 60 cmH2 O. In contrast, pectin mixtures containing 50% low-methoxyl pectin, 50% amidated low-methoxyl pectins, or 100% carboxymethylcellulose demonstrated frequent sealant failures at transpleural pressures of 40-50 cmH2 O (p < 0.001). Inhibition of sealant adhesion with enzyme treatment, dessication and 4°C cooling suggested an adhesion mechanism dependent upon polysaccharide interpenetration. We conclude that pectin-based heteropolysaccharides are a promising air-tight sealant of human pleural injuries. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Biomed. Mater. Res. Part B, 2018. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part B: Appl Biomater 107B: 799-806, 2019.

Keywords: air leak; lung; pectin; sealant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Glycocalyx / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Pectins* / chemistry
  • Pectins* / pharmacology
  • Pleura / injuries*
  • Pleura / metabolism
  • Pleura / pathology
  • Tissue Adhesives / chemistry
  • Tissue Adhesives / pharmacology


  • Tissue Adhesives
  • Pectins