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Portuguese scientist is one of the MIT Technology Review’s innovators under 35

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One in a thousand babies is affected by congenital heart defects. A biocompatible adhesive that facilitates the repair of those defects is the technology created by Maria José Pereira, which gave her entry into the list of innovators under the age of 35 drawn up by the MIT Technology Review.

The treatment currently available involves open-heart surgery, which is invasive and risky. Sutures or staples are used to close the holes between the chambers of the heart, a procedure that can damage the fragile tissue.  As the tissue grows additional surgery may be necessary.

The biocompatible glue created by Maria José Pereira can be applied and activated during a minimally invasive procedure. Unlike other materials, it is strong and flexible enough to work inside a beating heart.  It doesn’t harm the tissue when it is applied to the heart, and it doesn’t need to be replaced as the child grows.

Maria José Pereira developed this new technology as a graduate student in the FCT-funded MIT-Portugal programme. The technology has been licensed to a start-up company, Gecko Biomedical, where she is currently Head of Adhesive Technologies. The company expects to bring the glue to the market within two to three years.

The researcher considers it “an honour to join the list of innovators under 35. This award recognises the innovative nature of the technology platform we are developing and its potential to change how minimally invasive surgery is performed.” She also emphasises that “this work was possible due to the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team that looked at this problem from different viewpoints”

The scientist is the first Portuguese to join a list of people approaching innovative ground-breaking solutions that could shape their fields for decades, which includes, among others, the co-founders of Google, Larry Page e Sergey Brin; Facebook co-founder Apple’s lead designer, Jonathan Ive and the creator of Tumblr, David Karp.