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News Release

Startup cofounded by UC San Diego bioengineer wins angel investment competition

Karios Technologies commercializes a hydrogel to prevent adhesions during heart surgeries

Researchers developed a device to spray the hydrogel during surgeries. Download high resolution version of this image on Flickr. 
Image credit:  UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering / David Baillot

April 19, 2022--Karios Technologies, a company cofounded by UC San Diego bioengineering professor Karen Christman, won the inaugural Apis Health Angel Conference, a Seattle-based event that connects investors and health-related startups. 

Karios took $155,000 home. More than 50 companies were part of the event’s first round, and only six made it to the finals, which took place in late March 2022. 

The company is commercializing a hydrogel that forms a barrier to keep heart tissue from adhering to surrounding tissue after surgery. The hydrogel was successfully tested in rodents by a team of University of California San Diego researchers. The team of engineers, scientists and physicians also conducted a pilot study on porcine hearts, with promising results.

Karios Technologies is licensing the technology from UC San Diego.  “We are excited to be working to address this large unmet need in cardiac surgery–and other surgeries,”  said Gregory Grover, CEO, Co-Inventor, and Co-Founder of Karios Technologies. "Innovation is needed in this space and would have a significant and positive impact on patients, specifically the lives of young children with cardiac anomalies who require multiple life saving surgeries.”

In rats, the hydrogel prevented the formation of adhesions altogether. In a small pilot study, porcine hearts treated with the hydrogel experienced less severe adhesions that were easier to remove. In addition, the hydrogel did not appear to cause chronic inflammation. 

Adhesions--organ tissue sticking to surrounding tissue--are a relatively common problem when surgeons need to operate again at the same site, which happens in 20 percent of cases every year in cardiac surgery. Re-operations are particularly common when the patients are children suffering from cardiac malformations--as the child’s heart grows, additional interventions are needed. 

Adhesions form within the first 30 days post-op and can complicate operations and increase the risk of mortality during interventions. In some cases, they can also interfere with proper heart function or completely prevent a repeat surgery. UC San Diego bioengineering professor Christman experienced this when one of her uncles couldn’t have a heart valve repaired because of severe adhesions. 

“Our work is an engineering solution driven by a medical problem,” said Christman. “And now it’s poised to significantly improve cardiac surgery, both for adults and children.”


Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering